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Sask. to expand rural liquor offerings

Vintners and brewers who don’t have shelf space in Saskatchewan’s publicly-operated liquor stores may now be able to go through rural liquor vendors.

The Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) has changed its policy to allow its 185 rural liquor franchisees to special-order wine, spirits and beer not sold in SLGA liquor stores to “better meet the demands of their local market.”

“The change will help create new markets for rural liquor stores,” Dan D’Autremont, the provincial minister responsible for SLGA, said in a release Wednesday.

“For example, some Saskatchewan towns may have a specific cultural group that has been looking for certain products not listed by SLGA and now the local liquor franchise can help fulfil that need.”

The franchisees, usually private businesses with a separate section for liquor offerings, will still have to sell products listed by SLGA at SLGA liquor store prices. But they can have open pricing on any specialty products they may choose to list.

The amount of special order products a franchisee can sell will be limited to no more than 20 per cent of shelf space. The commission they receive on products bought for resale will remain unchanged at 15.3 per cent.

“Many of our members have had customers asking for certain products and under the old rules we couldn’t bring them in, so this is an exciting change,” Saskatchewan Liquor Vendors Association president Hugh Nerlien said in the province’s release.

“It’s not something that all of our members may access, but it gives them the choice to cater their product selection to their specific community.”

SLGA directly operates 79 public liquor stores and distributes to the rural franchises, on top of about 450 private “off-sale” outlets (attached to “on-site” businesses such as hotels and brew pubs) that can sell beer, wine and spirits.

The province last week also issued a request for proposals (RFP) to operate a specialty wine store franchise in Regina and in Saskatoon.

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