Mayor Bloomberg just held a press conference about the Board of Health passing his controversial "soda ban." Starting in March, various venues, such as movie theaters and restaurants, will be prohibited from selling sugary drinks over 16 ounces in size. In prepared remarks, he said, "This is the biggest step a city has taken to curb obesity. Simply by proposing limits on sugary drinks, New York City pushed the issue of obesity—and the impact of sugary beverages—onto the national stage. The Board of Health’s passing this proposal means that New Yorkers will soon consume fewer junk calories and eventually begin turning the tide of the obesity epidemic that is destroying the health of far too many of our citizens."
The big news is that the Barclays Center will not wait until March to follow the new rules. Developer Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner was present for the event and Bloomberg said, "I raise a 16 ounce cup and toast Barclays for joining us today and implementing this plan 6 months ahead of schedule. This is a game-changing vote and the new Barclays Center is on the winning side." Ratner himself said, "As the newest sports and entertainment venue in Brooklyn, Barclays Center is thrilled to work with the Mayor and the city to help achieve the Mayor's public health goals. New York City has set a standard for the country and the world when it comes to public health and we are very proud to be the first to adopt the standards for sugary beverages in our new venue."
During the Q&A, Bloomberg was asked about 7-Elevens being able to sell huge sodas and Slurpees, but the mayor pointed out that 7-Elevens are stores regulated by the state (if a store sells more packaged goods than ready-to-eat foods, it's a store) so it's out of his hands. He also asked one reporter, "Have you ever had a 32 ounce drink? It's very difficult to hold."
It seems like the Health Department will start with educating establishments first, and then they'll inspect four times a year. There will be fines if the establishments are not following the rules. Based on what we saw that the press conference, it appears that free refills are OVER. We're working to clarify this with the Health Department.
Health Commissioner Farley was asked about sugary drinks that come in 16.9 ounce bottles, but Farley said the ban would apply to them, and that no companies complained about that in the comments period. At this point, Bloomberg stepped in and insisted that it would be very easy for a soda company to change their bottle, since they roll out new products every month.