Earlier this month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg helped to pass a measure that will limit the size of sugary drinks available for purchase in delis, restaurants and movie theaters to 16 ounces, in an effort to tackle the obesity epidemic.
One side effect, however, could be the demise of some neighborhood delis and bodegas, and the concurrent rise of chain stores like 7-Eleven. Critics say the ban, which is set to come into effect this spring, cracks down unfairly on small business owners while allowing some large convenience stores to skirt the rules.
7-Eleven, one of the fastest growing chains in New York City, recently announced plans to open 30 new locations within the next five years. The Dallas-based convenience stores will be able to sell all drinks prohibited under the ban, including their super-sized Big Gulp, because they are governed by the state health department, and not the city department, company representatives told ABC/Univision.
Scott Drake, a 7-Eleven spokesperson, told ABC/Univision that his company will be prepared for any extra traffic that may come to their stores due to the sugary drinks ban that will affect delis, food carts and restaurants.
"Any retailer in close proximity to our stores, which sells the same items as we do is considered competition," 7-Eleven representative Margaret Chabris wrote in an email "So, it could be a grocery store, deli, coffee shop or quick-serve restaurant."
While grocery stores are not restricted under the ban, delis are. The Department of Health did not respond to a request for the specifics of their classification system or for information about which bodegas will be counted as grocery stores and which will are counted as delis.
Either way, many bodega owners are worried. Nidia Renato, the co-owner of K&O Deli Grocery in East Harlem, says the sugary drinks ban could be detrimental to businesses like hers.
"It could affect us as small businesses," she said in Spanish. "It will affect big businesses, but for little ones it could affect us quite a bit."