The SLGA liquor store allows large bid days to be pulled into the auction
Big bids for liquor store permits are already under way in Saskatchewan, although the auction only opened a few days ago.
Permits for cities where the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) still operates liquor stores were auctioned online Monday.
There are 35 permits up for auction, each closing between February 15th and 24th.
The auctions are for the permits only and can only be used in the municipality where the SLGA store was located. For example, a permit to replace a store in Regina is good only in Regina, but does not have to be in the same location in town as the SLGA store.
Interested bidders must pre-register and pay a $5,000 deposit in order to participate. The deposit will be returned to those who lose an auction.
Bidding started from zero and had reached at least $100 for most permits by 4:30pm CST Wednesday. But bidding on a handful of permits has cost up to tens of thousands of dollars, including one in Saskatoon that reached $161,000.
SLGA spokesman David Morris said Crown Corporation is delighted that the interest in the auctions expressed when it announced it in October has carried over to the bid.
The privatization of liquor retail has been an ongoing debate in Saskatchewan for years, but the provincial government has been slowly moving toward market exit for nearly a decade.
Then, during the throne speech last fall, Premier Scott Moe announced he would close all of the SLGA’s remaining liquor stores, saying liquor retail was not a core business of the provincial government. However, the SLGA will continue the spirits wholesale business.
At the time, the state government cited falling retail profits as the reason for the move. According to a press release, many of the liquor stores would have needed to be relocated or “physically adjusted” to meet customer needs and become more profitable.
The current permit auctions mark another step toward full privatization in Saskatchewan.
Meanwhile, SLGA stores continue to close. All liquor stores operated by Crown are expected to close by the end of March.
The government hopes to make big bucks from the auctions, but it’s the “final knife in the back” for the people who work in the store, said Bob Stadnichuk, vice president of retail and regulation at the Saskatchewan government and general employees. Union (SGEU) representing 500 SLGA employees.
“We’ve already gone through all the emotions,” Stadnichuk said.
“We’ve come to an acceptance and now most employees just want that to be done.”
Permit auction winners must open their liquor store within a year and a half.