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Aurora sugary drinks ordinance ‘wholly inappropriate’ says council member

AURORA–The Aurora City Council will take up a proposal Monday evening to regulate how food establishments in the city can advertise their kid’s meals to make it illegal to mention anything other than water or plain milk on menus or in advertising as the “default option.”

The proposed ordinance is sponsored by at-large council member Angela Lawson.

At-large council member Curtis Gardner spoke with Complete Colorado Friday about concerns he has with the proposal.

Curtis says that the proposal is both ineffective and “nanny state” politics.

Aurora City Councilman Curtis Gardner

“I think this is an example of municipal government deciding that they know better than citizens, who can decide on their own,” said Curtis. “I’m a parent of two young kids. I have to fight a lot about telling my daughters no we’re not going to have chocolate milk or we’re going to have water, but that’s my responsibility and frankly my burden as a parent. I don’t believe it’s an effective argument to say that because we don’t want parents to have to make that decision the government should make that decision for them, I think that’s wholly inappropriate.”

The proposed ordinance requires “food establishments,” which includes any place that is “licensed for the sale of food service for immediate consumption” to change their menus and advertising so that the “default beverage” sold with a children’s meal must be unsweetened still or sparkling water or dairy milk or milk substitute with no added sweeteners.

But it also includes language that specifically allows a food establishment to sell any other beverage “outside the default beverage,” presumably at extra cost.

Effectively it is a prohibition on advertising anything other than water or milk on a menu or other advertising materials for all-inclusive kid’s meals.

Aurora City Councilwoman Angela Lawson

The proposal would require all food establishments that sell such meals to change their menus and advertising materials to comply, which can be a substantial expense to smaller businesses.

“There has been some talk of offering to help offset the cost of printing menus,” said Gardner. “However, the dollar amounts being talked about are relatively small compared to all the costs that go into the restaurant updating their menus. It’s not just the printing cost, many restaurants need to hire graphic designers to update menus. They need to hire a web developer to update their website, and many of the delivery services such as GrubHub also charge restaurant to update their menu.”

Bundled kid’s meals are “offered as a convenience to parents and typically aren’t a way for a restaurant to make money,” said Gardner. “Many restaurants stated that rather than make this change they will stop offering kids meals.”

Another major concern for Gardner is the penalties involved for violations.

“The scary part to me is there’s a fine for the first and second violation and ultimately a business could have their license revoked for continuing to offer a sugary drink as a default option,” said Gardner. “I think that’s over the line.”

The proposed ordinance is set for first reading at the Aurora City Council meeting Monday, March 2 at 7:30 at the Aurora Municipal Center, 15151 E. Alameda Parkway.

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