A controversial countywide tax on sugary drinks, which was supposed to take effect July1, could be delayed after a Cook County Circuit Court judge on Wednesday agreed to hear a request to impose a temporary restraining order.

Judge Carl A. Walker will consider the request for the temporary restraining order, which was filed June 27 by a group of Chicago area grocers, on June 29 at 2 p.m. at the Richard J. Daley Center.  

The Illinois Retail Merchant Association, along with a group of about half a dozen local grocers, filed suit arguing the 1 cent-per-ounce tax was vague and violated the Illinois Constitution.  

The court’s decision is the latest development in the months-long run-up to the tax’s implementation since the Cook County Board of Commissioners passed the tax in November 2016.

Cook County officials said the tax would raise tens of millions of dollars in its first year and help improve public health. Grocers, however, have said it will hurt sales and have said the tax with cause logistical challenges and cumbersome bookkeeping.

Since the ordinance was passed, county officials have issued at least four clarifications, including tweaks to the tax’s effect on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and in-store shelf advertising.

“We appreciate the court’s decision to hit the pause button on this matter. To implement this tax correctly by the July 1deadline is inconceivable with rules and regulations that are so poorly defined, vague and continually changing,” IRMA CEO and President Rob Karr, said in a June 28 press release. “We hope the court rules for a permanent injunction when this policy can be better thought through.”

The suit’s other plaintiffs include, among others, Berkot’s Super Foods, Tony’s Finer Foods, Valli Produce and La Chiquita Supermarket.

Following the court’s decision to grant a hearing, the June 28 press release says the plaintiffs will seek a permanent injunction.

The IRMA represents about 20,000 member stores in Illinois.