It has been the butt of jokes for months. Our illustrious Mayor, proposing to tell New Yorkers what size sodas they can drink! What a laugh!
As of yesterday, the joke is apparently on us.
Mayor Bloomberg’s personally appointed Board of Health voted unanimously to uphold his proposed ban on the sale of sweetened soft drinks larger than 16 ounces in restaurants, movie theaters and stadium concessions.
Here’s how the ban shakes out: Only establishments that receive inspection grades from the Health Dept. will be affected. 7-Eleven, for example, is exempt. Which means their Big Gulp drinks are exempt as well. Movie theaters, restaurants and stadiums can still sell drinks larger than 16 ounces as long as they are diet drinks (hooray for me), but restaurants with self-service soda “bars” (like many McDonalds) will only be able to provide 16 ounce cups, no matter what type of soda you are getting.
Fruit juice is exempt. Milkshakes too. Ditto alcohol.
When told of the soft drink industry’s plan to use their deep pockets to fight yesterday’s ruling, our Mayor simply smiled. You see, he’s got some seriously deep pockets of his own. The NY Times quoted him as saying:
“I just spent roughly $600 million of my own money to try to stop the scourge of tobacco,” the mayor said, as a round of laughter began to rise in the room. “I’m looking for another cause. How much were they spending again?”
That’s what we New Yorkers call “chutzpah” and Mayor Bloomberg’s got it in spades.
Chutzpah or no, I foresee problems. Mainly because I’m pretty sure the members of my family are not the only ones who immediately began thinking of ways that the affected establishments could get around the soda ban.
Here are our top suggestions:
1. Self-service soda bars? No brainer. Unlimited refills. Because what is the city going to do? Have a Health Dept. employee or some poor cop stand there & monitor how many times you fill that 16 oz cup?
2. Bring your own large plastic cup and then buy three or more 16 ounce sodas to put in it.
3. Movie theaters are allowed to sell oversized diet drinks. And of course no one would PURPOSELY switch the soda lines so that regular soda came out one of the diet dispensers. But hey, mistakes happen!
4. Big Gulp cottage industry. 7-Eleven, in a move that now seems genius, opened several Manhattan locations in the past couple of years. They are exempt from the ban. Jack up those prices and offer delivery service! To restaurants, even!
5. BYOB in restaurants, movie theaters and stadiums. Want sugared soda? Bring your own 2-liter! We’ll provide the ice for a small fee.
6. Said it before. Will say it again. Free refills. Free refills. Free refills.
These ideas took us all of about 5 minutes to come up with. Think people who put their minds to it could come up with a few more?
So do I.