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Queens Chronicle

Sweet drinks ban plan unpopular among many

They say the choice should be left up to the individual, not the mayor

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Posted: Thursday, August 2, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:43 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

The mayor’s proposed ban on large sugary drinks would not curb obesity or diabetes, would alienate residents by restricting their beverage choices and would disproportionately affect small businesses and minority communities — those are the arguments being made by one area lawmaker and a citywide coalition formed to fight passage of the proposal.

City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and representatives of New Yorkers for Beverage Choices visited some small businesses in St. Albans on Tuesday to educate merchants about the drink ban plan and hear their thoughts on the proposal and how it would impact their sales.

The mayor’s proposal would restrict the sale of sugary beverages over 16 ounces and would affect all food establishments graded by the city, such as restaurants, delis and concessions at movie theaters and stadiums. Food carts are also included. Exempt are businesses regulated by the state, such as 7-Eleven stores, which ironically carry the largest drinks.

NYFBC was only formed seven weeks ago, but it already has 100,000 individual members and 2,000 businesses from all across the city, according to the group’s spokesman, Eliot Hoff.

“People are definitely fed up, and this could very well be a tipping point, because it has to do with people’s livelihoods if you’re a business, and lifestyle if you are an individual person,” Hoff said. “The bottom line is that there is no evidence that this will have any impact on obesity.”

Hoff noted that the ban is very arbitrary and has a greater impact on poorer communities, because, for example, well-known highly profitable restaurants can offer free drink refills, which would not be affected under the plan, as long as the cup size is under 16 ounces.

Families who often purchase a large beverage to share among several members because it is more cost effective would see that taken away. They could purchase several smaller drinks that would equal the same amount of beverage, but Comrie said that is unfair.

“I think it’s going to wind up costing low-income families more money, because Yankee Stadium is never going to do a two-for-one deal,” Comrie said. “The movie theaters are not going to do two-for-one deals and those are the places where you need to be portable and quick, especially if you’re a single parent or have multiple kids.”

Last year the lawmaker pushed McDonald’s to lower the salt content in its food and offer healthier options in its Happy Meals. But the difference, Comrie said, is that that was a unilateral, voluntary change. He believes if the mayor really wants to curb sugar, he would encourage the manufacturers of the drinks to reduce the amount in their beverages and educate residents about healthier dietary choices.

Jeffrey Rogers, the executive chef at NuUrban Cafe on Linden Boulevard, said he opposes the sugary drinks ban even though his restaurant does not serve jumbo-sized beverages. “Once you lock us down where we can’t serve a large drink, the next thing you know you will be telling me I can’t serve a burger,” Rogers said. “It doesn’t make much sense.”

Sherine Marshall, the owner of Spices Carribean Restaurant on Linden Boulevard, said she sells about 30 large sugary drinks a day. Since they are priced at 99 cents, it makes them popular among customers on a budget.

“I don’t support the ban because it is not good for our business,” Marshall said. “If he stops us from selling that, we will lose customers. It should be up to the person to decide what they want to drink.”

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