Chris Dolmetsch
Bloomberg News

New York lost its bid to impose a ban on oversize sodas in a ruling by the state’s highest court, ending for now an effort by the city to revive a rule struck down after lawsuits by trade groups whose members include Coca-Cola Co.

New York’s Court of Appeals said in a 4-2 decision today that the city’s health board lacked authority to impose the ban, proposed by Michael Bloomberg when he was mayor, saying such policymaking is reserved for legislative bodies -- in this case, the New York City Council.

The big-drink ban was an attempt “to promote a healthy diet without significantly affecting the beverage industry,” the court wrote. “The value judgments entailed difficult and complex choices between broad policy goals -- choices reserved to the legislative branch.”

Bloomberg pushed for the portion cap on soft-drink sizes starting in 2012 as part of his administration’s focus on public health. Instead of bringing the proposal to a vote before the City Council, the administration sent it to the Board of Health, which granted unanimous approval in September 2012. It limited to 16 ounces the size of sugary drinks sold in restaurants,movie theaters, stadiums and arenas.

Industry Groups

Groups including the American Beverage Association, whose members include Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and the National Restaurant Association sued, saying the rule interfered with consumers’ ability to make their own choices.

A trial judge struck it down saying it was “arbitrary and capricious” because it excluded certain businesses regulated by the state, such as convenience stores, and didn’t apply to other beverages with high concentrations of sugar and calories. An appeals court in Manhattan upheld that ruling, and the city appealed to the Albany-based top court.

The beverage association said today that the rule “would have created an uneven playing field for thousands of small businesses in the city and limited New Yorkers’ freedom of choice.”

“With this ruling behind us, we look forward to collaborating with city leaders on solutions that will have a meaningful and lasting impact on New Yorkers and families across the country,” the association said.

Kate O’Brien Ahlers, a spokeswoman for the city’s Law Department, didn’t immediately comment on the ruling.

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The case is New York Statewide Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce v. New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 653584/2012, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).