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New York City Lawyers, Beverage Industry Duel In Court Over Big Drink Ban

Small Biz Groups: Mayor's 16-Ounce Serving Size Limit Arbitrary And Ridiculous
(Photo Illustration by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(Photo Illustration by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The beverage industry is trying to take the fizz out of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s big sugary soda ban. The two sides battled like Coke versus Pepsi in court on Wednesday.

Go figure, a 20-ounce Coke will be banned, but a 20-ounce rum and Coke will be allowed under Mayor Bloomberg’s crackdown.

New York doesn’t make sense. That’s why we love it,” Brian Dykes of Manhattan told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

The sugary soda restrictions were attacked in court Wednesday, with the beverage industry and small business groups calling the mayor’s 16-ounce serving size limit arbitrary and ridiculous.

For example, you won’t be able to buy a 2-liter bottle of Coke at a Chinese restaurant or at a pizzeria, but you will be able to buy it at a corner deli, which is regulated as a market, not a food service establishment.

Duane Reade can sell a 20-ounce bottle of Dr. Pepper, but a corner café cannot.

“It’s a serious issue affecting small business at a time when they can least afford it. They’ve been kicked around in this economy for some time now and this ban is just imposing an additional burden on them. It’s quite unfair,” said Steven Molo, attorney for the Korean Deli Owners Association.

The city says 7-11s and other stores are exempt — as are alcoholic beverages — because the state regulates them.

“It goes to the jurisdiction, the restaurants are a regulated community that we oversee,” Health Department lawyer Thomas Merrill said.

Advocates say the soda serving limits make sense — given skyrocketing obesity.

“Obesity is a chronic disease and they are restricting the internal workings of food service establishments, same way as the calorie labeling and the trans-fat limitation,” said Jennifer Pomeranz of the Yale Center for Food Policy.

The soda size restrictions are set to take effect in mid-March, unless a judge bottles them up.

A number of city council members joined the fight against the soda restrictions, claiming the Department of Health is overstepping its authority.

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