NB Liquor's decision to award the contract for a new agency store in Hanwell to a Moncton-based company instead of a local one has sparked the creation of a new community group and a petition.
Gayla Macintosh, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Hanwell, contends NB Liquor broke its own rules with the decision.
The Crown agency's guidelines call for contracts for agency stories to be awarded to local businesses, she said.
Scholten's Convenience Store and the nearby Hanwell Village Mart had both submitted bids to operate the new agency store.
But Power Plus Technology, owners of the Magnetic Hill Esso gas station, was the successful bidder for the store, which will be built next to the Trans Canada Highway near Hanwell, along with a brand gas bar and convenience store.
"One of the guidelines is that they want it to be a centrally-located place and this would be it — one of these two stores would be it — and we don't know why," said Macintosh.
The group is encouraging citizens who oppose the "unfair" decision to sign a petition supporting a Hanwell bid and to send an email expressing their "displeasure" to the premier, finance minister, the local MLA and the head of NB Liquor.
The decision simply doesn't make sense, said Josh Allen, a regular customer at Scholten's.
"Better here for the economy, for Scholten's itself, bring more business here, rather than have a business from out of town come in and take over their clientele," he said.
NB Liquor spokeswoman Marcelle Saulnier says decisions about where the 10 new agency stores will go this year is based on customer traffic, location and site evaluation, among other criteria.
"In this case we hired a firm to go look at the various proposals that we accepted and they came back with a scoring," she said.
The criteria does give points for being locally-owned and operated, but it's low on the list, said Saulnier.
None of the companies' owners would comment on Thursday.
The Concerned Citizens of Hanwell will be holding an information session on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Starlite Lodge. The group has invited NB Liquor CEO Daniel Allain to attend.