Saskatchewan government-owned liquor stores post financial loss after closures

The Saskatchewan government has spent millions of dollars to shutter its remaining liquor stores, resulting in the retailers posting a financial loss this year.

This province says the Saskatchewan Gaming and Liquor Authority’s retail division lost $22.6 million this fiscal year.

Lori Carr, the minister responsible for the authority, says the retailers were not profitable because the Saskatchewan Party government had to spend additional money to close stores and provide severance to employees.

Carr did not say how much the government spent on severance and other closing costs.

Saskatchewan shuttered its remaining 34 government-owned liquor stores in March to exit the retail business.

Despite the retail division losing money, the liquor authority as a whole made $518 million in profit, higher than what was budgeted.

The government remains in the liquor wholesale business, as do other provinces.

When the government left the retail business, it auctioned liquor permits to replace the stores and sold some of the buildings.

Carr said the auctions and building sales brought in $50 million, revenue that isn’t reflected in this year’s financial report.

“I wouldn’t look at this as losing money,” she said. “We actually offset any expenses that we had with the sale of the permits and the buildings.”

The government had originally projected the stores would bring in a profit of about $395,000 this year, but that was before it took closing costs into account.

The province has said the stores would have started to lose money next year if they kept operating, but the union representing the employees disputed that would have been the case.

Carr said seven of the auctioned permits have been paid in full, which means those stores are now open or should soon open. The stories include ones in Fort Qu’Appelle, La Ronge, La Loche, Buffalo Narrows, Creighton, Melfort and Nipawin.

The remaining 27 permits have yet to be paid in full. The owners of these permits have 18 months to pay them and open their stores.

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