Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The BRA looks at reducing minimum requirements

Recently the Boston Restaurant Authority has indicated a desire to reduce their minimum soda requirements in new restaurants.

These requirements have been in place since the founding of the BRA in the 1950s, in order to assure that every patron has access to at least one free soda with every meal. In some cases, the BRA had been requiring two sodas per customer.

This measure had been intended to reduce demand for the depleting supplies of on-street soda machines.

Over the years, minimum soda requirements have been blamed for causing over-consumption of sugary drinks. The obesity epidemic, some say, is directly related to the excessive number of soda drinks being forced upon restaurant patrons, whether they order it or not.

"We don't need to push a soda with every meal," Peter Mead, head of the Boston Restaurant Authority, said in a recent interview. He cited US census data showing that one in three Boston residents is between 20 and 35, and most drink water, juice, or beer primarily.

Critics of the new policy claim that elimination of minimum soda requirements will cause a terrible soda shortage, as restaurants may choose to devote resources to other products, such as food. They say this will put a strain on already-short supplies in on-street soda machines.

A local woman complained, "If the BRA gets their way then families will leave Boston and move to the suburbs where they can get soda for free."

Another explained, "While I appreciate the idea of promoting public health, the city's public water transporter, MWRA, is not good enough to replace soda for everyday needs."

"The reality is that Americans love their soda and BRA officials are sticking their heads in the sand," said Charlie Sodalis, "it's policies like this that make me want to dissolve the BRA in a bucket of cola." But, when told that the BRA was the agency responsible for the minimum soda requirement in the first place, Charlie's head exploded in a fizz of cognitive dissonance.

An official said that the city will continue to explore relaxation of soda requirements in neighborhoods across the city, whether in Brighton, South Boston, or Jamaica Plain. This would not prevent people from purchasing and consuming soda in restaurants there, if they so choose, but instead would make it optional.

“We want to leave some room for negotiation in every community,” he said. “But if we don’t start to push people to pay for their own soda and consider other options, then that behavior is never going to change.”

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