Liquor Privatization Harms Small-Town Saskatchewan
Download the full report
In summer 2014, Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) privatized four small town liquor stores in Ituna, Kerrobert, Langenburg and Ponteix. These full-line public liquor stores were replaced by private franchises, operating out of existing businesses.
To learn what effects these privatizations had on local residents and economies, SGEU commissioned a researcher to visit each town and interview residents and business owners. Below is a summary of the project’s findings. The full report can be read by clicking the link above.
- In all four towns, the former SLGA stores now sit empty. No businesses have taken over the buildings. (In Ponteix, the library operates in a half-empty building it previously shared with the SLGA store.)
- Other business have suffered a loss of traffic and revenue since the SLGA stores closed.
- In Ituna, one family-owned grocery store has laid off staff and experienced an estimated 30% drop in profits, with the owner describing 2014-15 as the worst of his 22 years operating in Ituna. The business’ profits collapsed after a competing grocery store was awarded the liquor franchise, and the owner intends to close the store shortly.
- Ponteix has experienced a series of business closures following the shutdown of the SLGA store. A dollar store, a home care store, and the SGI office all closed by December 2015, at a loss of eight jobs.
- In Langenburg, the owner of a retail shop near the former liquor store identified a significant drop in customers and profits in summer 2014, immediately after the SLGA closure.
- The new franchises offer a much smaller selection than the SLGA stores did, and residents report that franchise staff aren’t familiar with the products. Moving liquor sales into a franchise also creates waits for service that didn’t exist at the SLGA stores.
- Residents now commonly buy their liquor at SLGA stores in other towns, rather than at their local franchises.
- In Ituna, the owner of a local hotel opened an off-sale following the SLGA closure, and reports that residents will buy from him at a higher price, rather than accept poor service at the town’s franchise store.
- Many former SLGA staff, managers especially, have transferred to other SLGA stores, meaning they face daily commutes of up to an hour each way. Along with the fuel costs this imposes on workers, it largely removes them from the social fabric of their towns.