Mayor Michael Bloomberg's soda ban — and as Labor Day approaches, a resolution, one way or another, is on the horizon.
City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, D-Forest Hills, took a walking tour of businesses in Rego Park on Wednesday to find out what local entrepreneurs thought of the mayor's proposed ban on sugary drinks over 16 ounces.
Starting with Bella Roza Pizza in Rego Park, the councilwoman heard from business owners at restaurants given DOH letter grades. Only graded businesses would be subject to the ban. Grocery stores and bodegas would be allowed to continue selling larger-sized sugary drinks.
Koslowitz made it clear to business owners that she was against the ban, but also said there was little she could do legislatively to stop it.
The New York City Department of Health will vote on the proposal Sept. 13, and many, including Koslowitz, expect the group to approve the measure.
"What are they going to do next, take candy bars away?" Koslowitz said. "This is above and beyond."
The councilwoman was accompanied by representatives from New Yorkers For Beverage Choices, a lobbying group against the ban that sprang up quickly after the guideline was proposed and now claims hundreds of thousands of active members.
Artur Isakov, the manager at Larisa's Bagels on 63rd Drive, said he thought the ban was too arbitrary and ultimately it would be felt in his bottom line.
"It's going to affect the business," Isakov said. "People can't buy a drink here, so they'll get it somewhere else. That hurts."
Susan Resnik, a customer at Larisa's Bagels, said she wasn't totally in favor of the ban, but thought it would be hard to get people to make healthy choices if they weren't compelled. She compared Bloomberg to an "enlightened despot."
I'm not necessarily in favor of it, but I realize that it's a beneficial measure," Resnik said. "There's just an apathy in general of people to change."
Eliot Hoff, of New Yorker's For Beverage Choices, spent the walking tour pointing out drinks that would garner fines under the proposed ban. Everything from 20-ounce sodas to Gatorade bottles to smoothies were out, he said. Hoff added that the tour with Koslowitz was the 17th in the last two months, and that most council members he had spoken to have been looking for a reason to speak out on the ban.
Koslowitz said she planned to look at recourse for City Council members who have reservations about the new guideline, but wasn't sure what the next step was.
"It may not be a legislative [solution,]" Koslowitz said with a shrug. "The Department of Health, if they come out with rulings….they're the Department of Health."
The mayor is refusing to budge one iota on the ban.
"All we're doing is saying that restaurants and movie theaters can't use greater than 16-ounce cups,” Bloomberg said at a press conference Tuesday according to the Wall Street Journal. “But if you want to buy five of them and drink it, you can go ahead and do it.”
Hoff said his group had considered a lawsuit if the ban goes through.
"We're thinking about all kinds of options after September 13, because we don't have high hopes of winning," Hoff said. "We're looking into legal options, we're looking into legislative options."