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National Restaurant Association - NRA joins NYC beverage ban lawsuit

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NRA joins NYC beverage ban lawsuit

The National Restaurant Association joined a lawsuit that challenges the New York City health department’s authority to bar restaurants and other businesses from selling sugar-sweetened beverages larger than 16 ounces.

Filed in New York State Court, the lawsuit contends that the agency lacks authority to enact such a rule. It notes that New York State law reserves the power to pass new legislation for the city council. The legal challenge also says the ban is arbitrary, subjecting restaurants to a standard that competitors don’t have to meet.

“This lawsuit is about ensuring that the board of health respects the legislative process,” said Caroline Starke, spokeswoman for the plaintiffs. “Despite strong and growing opposition from New Yorkers, the proposal was passed by sidestepping the city’s elected legislators.”

The suit claims the board of health disregards opposition by counci members and acted improperly by trying to implement the policy by executive fiat. The plaintiffs argue the regulation is arbitrary and capricious and violates Section 7803 of the New York Civil Laws and Rules.

“This arbitrary ban creates an uneven playing field — seriously harming thousands of small businesses in the city, while leaving others exempt,” Starke said. “The ban is riddled with irrational exclusions, loopholes and random classifications that will seriously harm New York City businesses.”

Starke said the suit would be brought as an Article 78 proceeding, which is expedited and generally adjudicated on the existing administrative record.

The board of health passed the ban last month, and it is scheduled to take effect in March 2013. It is expected to prohibit restaurants, delis, food carts, stadium concession stands and movie theaters from selling sugared drinks, such as soda, iced tea, energy drinks, some smoothies and certain coffee beverages, in containers larger than 16 ounces.

Besides the NRA, plaintiffs include businesses and workers represented by city, state and national associations, such as the Teamsters Local 812, Korean-American Grocers Association of New York, National Association of Theatre Owners of New York State, New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and the American Beverage Association.

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