As you know, Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s proposed “Big Gulp Ban” is one of the stupidest ideas in the history of both stupidity and ideas. In addition to doing literally nothing to curb obesity, it also will hurt businesses, piss people off, and it relegates adults to children who are incapable of making their own decisions.
To further illustrate just how stupid Bloomberg’s plan really is, yesterday, we accompanied City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito on a walking tour of a Harlem neighborhood to see how the ban would potentially impact businesses. Turns out, restaurant owners are pissed (go figure) — and they’re not the only ones.
Before we get started, here’s how it breaks down: the mayor’s plan would ban serving sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces. However, it only applies to restaurants, so if you order a slice of pizza at a shop next to a grocery store — and are only permitted what amounts essentially to a sippy-cup of soda — there’s nothing to stop you from purchasing a larger container of soda at the grocery store that’s directly next to the pizza place.
In other words, the only way the mayor’s plan does anything to curb obesity is by forcing people to burn the 30 calories it takes to walk 10 feet away to a grocery store to buy whatever size soda they want.
At the corner of Lexington Avenue and 116th Street in Harlem, there are at least 15 restaurants that, if Bloomberg gets his way, wouldn’t be allowed to serve soda in containers larger than 16 ounces. Within less than a block of any of the aforementioned restaurants, there are at least five grocery stores where people can buy as much soda as their hearts desire.
One of those restaurants is Crown Fried Chicken — which is located directly next to the Mi Parada Grocery Store — where owner Nal Barak tells the Voice that if Bloomberg gets his way, he wouldn’t be able to sell the majority of the drinks in his cooler.
“I don’t like this law,” he says. “If [the mayor] cares about the health [the ban should apply to everyone, not just restaurants].”
Barak says he doesn’t necessarily disagree with banning big sodas, noting that “sugar is no good for nobody.” But he’s angry because the ban will drive business away from his store and over to the bodega that’s right next door.
Restaurant owners aren’t the only ones in Harlem opposed to Bloomberg’s ban. One Harlem resident, who only wanted to be identified as “Kill Box” (yes, “Kill Box” — we made him say it twice), hadn’t heard of Bloomie’s “Big Gulp Ban.”
“That nigga (Bloomberg) wants to do what,” he asks when we asked him for his take on the proposed ban.
After we explained the proposal to him and a few of his friends, “Kill Box” called the mayor a “fucking idiot” and explained how he’d handle the situation if he were told he could only have a 16 ounce drink.
“I can just walk to the bodega down the block? Yeah — I’ll just do that; I don’t want no fucking baby cup,” he explains.
Councilwoman Mark-Viverito agrees that obesity is an issue that needs to be addressed. She also agrees with us that the mayor’s plan is one of the dumbest ways to go about it.
“I’ve been against it from the beginning,” she tells the Voice. “It’s very random, it’s arbitrary, it’s difficult on [restaurant] owners. How are you going to implement it? Who’s gonna implement it? Our city agencies are strapped…there’s a lot of issues here that creates disparities, so I’m concerned about it. From a small business perspective, there’s a real impact here. It doesn’t make sense that you can go next door to a bodega and buy [large sodas] but you can’t buy it from the place where you’re buying your food.”
Mark-Viverito says the mayor should be focusing on promoting exercise, and cracking down on state and city mandates that require kids to exercise at school.
“[The ban] is just a distraction and does nothing to get at the root of the issue,” she says.