Changes are coming for Saskatchewan’s private liquor stores, which will soon have the option of selling or relocating permits within a municipality.
In 2016, the provincial government announced 50 permits for private liquor stores. On Oct. 8, a two-year moratorium on the resale of those permits will end, opening up the market to other retailers.
Glen Weir is the owner of the Best Western Seven Oaks, which also includes an offsale, in Regina. Weir is also the past president of Saskatchewan Hotels Association and vice-president of the Regina Hotels Association.
He said people are already noticing the changes taking place, pointing to the construction of a liquor space inside the Real Canadian Superstore in Regina’s east end.
“People are now seeing that this is going to happen,” Weir said, adding there’s a misconception that new permits are being doled out.
“People are buying licences in another area of the city, and then moving it to the property that they own, in this case a Loblaws or a Costco or Sobeys.”
Once the licence is taken over by a new buyer, on Oct. 8 it will cease at its current location. With these changes, Loblaws is set to open four liquor stores in the province — in Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Yorkton.
Weir added there are rumors Sobeys and Costco have purchased licences from other private permit holders in Regina.
“That’s progress. And you can’t stand in the way of progress,” he said.
“What you have to be cognizant of is not having more competition that would be unfair.”
Gene Makowksy, minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA), said the government has no immediate plans to announce new liquor permits, but he wouldn’t rule it out.
Weir said the current 37 private permits is “more than enough” to service Regina.
“We don’t want to see any more licences in the city,” he said.
Weir also noted there are currently no city bylaws regarding the proximity of liquor stores within Regina.
“I don’t want to see somebody start up a liquor store right across the street from my current facility,” Weir said.
As for competition from larger players such as Loblaws and Costco, Weir noted most of the concern revolves around pricing.
“Are they going to try and sell cheap alcohol, or are they going to maintain a normal retail market?” he said.