SLGA liquor store permits drawing big bids days into auction

Major cash is already being bid on liquor store permits in Saskatchewan, despite the auction only opening a few days ago.

Bidding for Saskatoon permit up to $161K with 7 days left before close

A sign designating a store as a Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority retail alcohol store.
The permits associated with remaining SLGA liquor stores are now up for bid, and some are fetching high numbers. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC)

Major cash is already being bid on liquor store permits in Saskatchewan, despite the auction only opening a few days ago.

Permits for cities where the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) is still operating liquor stores were put up for auction online Monday.

There are 35 permits up for auction, with each closing some time from Feb. 15 to Feb. 24.

The auctions are only for the permits, and they can only be used in the community where the SLGA store was located. A permit to replace a store in Regina, for instance, is only good in Regina, but doesn't need to be in the same location in the city that the SLGA store was. 

Interested bidders must pre-register and put down a $5,000 deposit to participate. The deposit will be refunded to those who lose an auction.

Bidding started at zero and had reached at least $100 for most permits as of 4:30 p.m. CST Wednesday. But bidding on a handful of permits was up to tens of thousands of dollars, including one in Saskatoon that had reached $161,000.

SLGA spokesperson David Morris said the Crown corporation is excited that interest in the auctions expressed when they were announced in October has carried over into the bidding.

Privatizing liquor retail has been an ongoing debate in Saskatchewan for years, but the provincial government had been slowly moving toward exiting the market for the better part of a decade.

Then, during the throne speech last fall, Premier Scott Moe announced it would be closing all remaining SLGA liquor stores, saying liquor retail is not a core business of the provincial government. The SLGA will continue operating liquor wholesale, however.

At the time, the provincial government cited declining retail profits as a reason for the move. According to a news release, many of the liquor stores would have needed to be relocated or "physically adapted" 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 Crown-operated liquor stores are expected to shut down by the end of March.

The government hopes to make a lot of money 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 regulatory for the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU), which represents 500 SLGA employees.

"We've gone through all of the emotions already," Stadnichuk said.

"We've come to an acceptance and now most of the employees just want this to be done."

Permit auction winners must open their liquor store within a year and a half.


Nicholas Frew is a CBC Saskatchewan reporter based in Regina, who specializes in producing data-driven stories. Hailing from Newfoundland and Labrador, Frew moved to Halifax to attend journalism school. He has previously worked for CBC newsrooms in Manitoba and Alberta. Before joining CBC, he interned at the Winnipeg Free Press. You can reach him at