New York's highest court refused on Thursday to reinstate New York City's ban on the sale of sodas and sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces, a move the National Restaurant Association called “a victory for the city’s restaurants and suppliers.”

New York’s Court of Appeals ruled that the city's Board of Health overstepped its authority when it restricted the size of sodas in September 2012, and upheld a lower court ruling that overturned the ban.

“By choosing among competing policy goals, without any legislative delegation or guidance, the board engaged in law-making and thus infringed upon the legislative jurisdiction of the City Council of New York,” wrote Judge Eugene F. Pigott in the majority 4-2 opinion.

Under the initiative, sugary drinks were defined as beverages that are “sweetened with sugar or another caloric sweetener that contain more than 25 calories per eight fluid ounces and contain less than 51 percent milk or milk substitute by volume as an ingredient,” which does not include diet drinks, calorie-free drinks and alcoholic beverages.

The ban would have applied to restaurants, delicatessens, movie theaters, stadiums and street carts, but not to bodegas, convenience stores and grocery stores.

Foodservice associations had opposed the ban since it was initially proposed and sued to get it overturned. The NRA joined the American Beverage Association in challenging the ban in court, saying it was arbitrary and subjected restaurateurs to a standard that many of its competitors, including groceries and c-stores, didn’t have to meet.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had championed the initiative as a way to fight obesity and other health conditions.

“This is an important victory for the thousands of restaurant operators and industry suppliers serving New York City who would have experienced financial hardships had the ban been enacted,” Dawn Sweeney, the NRA’s president and chief executive, said in a statement released after the ruling. “We are pleased that this final ruling recognized that the Board of Health exceeded its authority when it initially passed the ban.”

The American Beverage Association said it was also “pleased” with the outcome of the latest ruling. “It would have created an uneven playing field for thousands of small businesses in the city and limited New Yorkers' freedom of choice,” Christopher Gindlesperger, senior director of public affairs, said in a statement. “With this ruling behind us, we look forward to collaborating with city leaders on solutions that will have a meaningful and lasting impact on New Yorkers and families across the country."

Contact Ron Ruggless at ronald.ruggless@penton.com.
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