Either under the influence of small-business owners, soda-industry lobbyists, or people just frustrated with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a New York judge effectively killed the city's controversial ban on big sugary drinks less than 12 hours before it was set to go into effect, calling the plan "fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences."
New York Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling's decision arrived by surprise on Monday afternoon, as the city prepared to grapple with which soda sizes were officially regulated as of Tuesday. (Pop with delivery pizza? Nope. Big Gulps from 7-Eleven? Still good.)
But the ban is off for now. Bloomberg's office said he planned an appeal to a higher court, though the state Supreme Court decision said his administration would be "enjoined and permanently restrained from implementing or enforcing the new regulations." The difficulty of regulating a city the size of New York, with its seemingly endless supply of restaurants and suppliers to schools and hospitals and more, was at the center of the judge's decision. "The simple reading of the rule leads to the earlier acknowledged uneven enforcement even within a particular city block, much less the city as a whole….the loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the state purpose of the rule," Tingling wrote. The judge also questioned the authority of the city's Board of Health.
Conservatives, who had long resisted the ban and particularly Bloomberg as forcing a regulation that they said would hurt small businesses like some deli owners, immediately cried "freedom." But it was still unclear what, exactly, engineered the reversal. The judge's decision comes as a result of a challenge from several groups, including the powerful American Beverage Association and a Korean-American grocers' group. While the ABA, lobbying on behalf of large companies such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi Co, and Cadbury Schweppes, usually only spends a little over a $1 million a year, they've been know to influence decisions far and beyond local legislatures. This isn't their first major victory. The soda lobby was able to fight off soda taxes in multiple states around 2010.