NYC Sugary Drink Ban May Be on Solid Legal Ground

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 11, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The NYC sugary drink ban put in place by Mayor Michael Bloomberg is facing opposition.

With a measure that could affect how many New York businesses sell sugary drinks, counsel for restaurants and industry groups are starting to put their heads together to determine whether they plan to sue.

But they may have a difficult road ahead of them.

Mayor Bloomberg's soft drink ban would have ramifications on a number of businesses, including not just restaurants but movie theaters, food carts and other venues that sell super-sized drinks.

Under Mayor Bloomberg's proposal, New York City's health department would have the ability to levy fines on those businesses serving sugary soft drinks larger than sixteen ounces.

Would a court be prone to taking the side of the city or of the lobby and interest groups that might bring suit?

It's hard to say, but some experts have held that courts may not find the ban unreasonable. The measure might very well withstand legal scrutiny, seeing as how the Bloomberg administration has been successful with other health-related initiatives in the past.

The law, many might say, is rationally related to a legitimate government interest-- the protection of health within the city and the discouraging of well evidenced unhealthy habits.

But is NYC sugary drink ban legal? Would it really serve a governmental objective of lowering consumption of supersized sugary drinks? After all, the ban wouldn't apply to grocery stores. And it would have little effect on the ability to get a free refill.

Other potential challenges to the ban might come through the Commerce Clause. Opponents could raise the argument that the ban would affect interstate commerce as it would pose a burden on companies that ship soda syrup and supersized cups across state lines.

It will certainly be interesting to see which challenges emerge to the measure and how (or if) they will hold up in court.

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