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Estevan retail liquor store permit sells for more than $1.4 million

Saskatchewan announced plans last fall to exit retail liquor sales
Bare shelves heralded the end of the line for the government-owned liquor store in Estevan, whose retail licence sold at auction this week for more than $1.4 million.

The initial results from this week's auctions of Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority liquor store licences have seen prices peak at well over $1.4 million.

The first five auctions began Feb. 6 and closed Feb. 15, with a licence in Regina fetching $1.45 million. The second most-expensive licence sold in Prince Albert for $1.4 million, followed by a Saskatoon licence that commanded $1.25 million. Sales of the licences for stores in Watrous and Carlyle also closed on Feb. 15.

A second round of bidding opened Feb. 8 and closed Feb. 16, with the retail liquor store permit in Estevan commanding the top price of more than $1.4 million.

The unreserved online auction process was conducted by McDougall Auctions of Saskatoon. Bidders were required to pay an refundable deposit of $5,000.

The successful bidder for the Estevan licence acted under the name of Liquormerchants. The government liquor store in Estevan closed on Feb. 11, and Liquormerchants will be able to use the licence to open a new store in the community.

A total of 128 bids were received for the licence in Estevan. The highest bid was over $300,000 as of Thursday morning at 11 a.m. But a rush of bids came in starting at 11:47 a.m.

The auction was eligible to close at 2 p.m., but it didn’t wrap up until a bid didn’t occur for 10 minutes. The final bid for Estevan was submitted at 2:44 p.m.

Auctions for a permit in each of Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Assiniboia and Moosomin also closed on Thursday. The final auction for the day in Moose Jaw closed at 5:45 p.m.

Estevan’s government-owned liquor store closed on Feb. 11. The entity that purchased the retail permit will receive only the permit.

There will be multiple auctions for Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert due to the number of liquor stores owned by SLGA in those communities. The final sale of the week will see six licences in Regina, Saskatoon, Swift Current, Meadow Lake, Nipawin and Biggar sold. All auctions are set to wrap up by Feb. 25.

The provincial government announced last fall that 34 government-owned liquor stores would close by the end of March this year. A total of 35 permits are being auctioned.

SLGA minister Lori Carr outlined preliminary details regarding the process on Oct. 27, explaining that the retail permits would be sold to new private operators in a public online auction process. She said the bidding will be for the license itself, not the physical buildings where the liquor stores are located.

The physical assets, including 19 buildings owned by SLGA, fixtures and equipment, will be sold in a separate process.

Not impacted is SLGA's Distribution Centre. SLGA will also continue to operate as wholesaler of beverage alcohol as well as regulator of liquor, gaming and cannabis.

The government's exit from liquor sales affects 284 full time equivalent jobs will be impacted. The province says the SLGA is working with the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union to negotiate a workforce adjustment plan for affected staff.