Businesses dreading New York City’s impending sugary drink ban won a brief reprieve today, as city officials announced that they will not impose fines for the first three months after the measure takes effect.

The ban, which was passed in September and is slated to take effect on March 12, will prevent businesses such as restaurants, movie theaters and delis from selling sodas or other sugary drinks that are larger than 16 ounces. The city’s Department of Health said Tuesday that the ban will take effect as scheduled, but that businesses will have a three-month grace period before they face a $200 fine for noncompliance.

Last October, several beverage and restaurant industry groups sued the city to block the ban’s implementation, claiming that its Board of Health does not have the authority to pass the measure. Instead, the plaintiffs argued, the city council—a legislative body—should be the one to approve the law. A hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday to determine whether the lawsuit can proceed.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg maintains that the ban will help curb the city’s rising obesity rates, which statistics put at 58 percent. But detractors say that the law could harm small businesses, and that it contains too many loopholes to be truly effective. Diet sodas are exempt from the law, for example, along with alcohol- and milk-based drinks.

Read more at Thomson Reuters.

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