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Retail Liquor Permits FAQ

What is a retail liquor store?
Retail liquor stores are businesses that have the ability to sell beverage alcohol to customers for off-site consumption. There are currently approximately 700 liquor retailers in Saskatchewan. These retailers all operate under a Retail Store Permit (RSP).

The community I’m interested in is not on this auction list. Does that mean there is no permit currently available?
Auctions for available permits will only be held if interest is expressed for that community/RM. Since the initial announcement in May 2019, interest has been expressed in 28 communities/RMs. These permits will be distributed over auctions to be held at six week intervals over the next few months until all of the communities where interest has been expressed are auctioned.

How will the auctions work?
The auctions will take place online and will be conducted by an experienced auction provider. Bidders must register with the auction company in order to participate in the bidding process. Auctions will be open for 10 days and registered bidders will be able to see the current bid amounts in real time. To participate in an auction, visit www.McDougallBay.com and follow the instructions to register as a bidder.

Will bidders be able to see the other bids/bidders?
All bidders must register with the auction company in order to participate in the bidding process (www.McDougallBay.com). This is an open bid process which means bids will be visible online moments after they are placed.

How many auctions are there?
The first auctions begin Nov. 27. Five communities (Estevan, Martensville, Melfort, Weyburn and Warman) will be part of the first round of auctions with auctions for the the remaining 23 communities to take place early in 2020. Once these initial 28 auctions are complete, we plan to hold auctions on a quarterly basis, if interest is expressed in a location with an available permit. Interested bidders can watch the auction site for details about future auctions.

How are people being notified of the auctions?
Information about the auctions will be made public in a number of ways – including a provincial news release to all media outlets, ads in community newspapers, information on slga.com, notification to those who have expressed interest in a permit and notification to community officials.

So the highest bidder gets the permit?
The highest bid gives the individual/business the opportunity to formally apply for the available liquor permit. It’s important to note that the prospective retailer must also meet regular SLGA requirements to hold a commercial liquor permit, including good character. Simply being the highest bidder does not automatically qualify you to hold a commercial liquor permit.

What if there is only one bidder?
The highest bid for each auction will determine who ‘wins’ that permit, whether there is one bidder or several.

Will SLGA consider other qualifications before awarding the permit (ex. other liquor experience, retail experiences, etc.)?
No. Permits will go to the highest bidder as long as they meet all terms of holding a permit.

Is there a minimum bid for the auctions? What about application fees, permit fees, etc.?
There is a $1,000 minimum bid for each auction. In addition, successful bidders for each auction will be required to pay a permit application fee ($525) to start the application process. There is also an annual permit fee that must be paid before the permit is issued ($157-$525 depending on the location).

Timeline for payment of bids is as follows:

· Within 30 days of auction closing, bidder must pay 25 per cent of total bid amount.

· Within 12 months of auction closing, bidder must pay a further 50 per cent of total bid amount (total 75 per cent).

· Within 18 months of auction closing, remaining 25 per cent of bid must be paid.


Can a successful bidder sell the permit without opening for business?
The retail store must be opened within 18 months of the auction closing and the retailer must complete the permit process and open a store before they can sell the permit.

Why is SLGA using an online auction to decide who gets a permit?
The open bid process allows permits to be distributed in a transparent manner with relatively short timelines. (Auctions will only be launched if there is interest in a community that has an unallocated permit). Conducting the auction online also ensures a wide audience is able to participate in the process. 

While a community may be eligible for another liquor store based on the population, its proximity to nearby communities/municipalities may make it impractical to open another retail liquor store. What happens in such cases?
The policy simply outlines the maximum number of liquor stores in communities/municipalities based on population. It will be up to those interested to decide whether it makes business sense to bid on an available permit and open a retail liquor store in that community.

Does SLGA stipulate where new liquor stores are located within these communities?
A condition of receiving a retail store permit is that the operator meets all applicable zoning bylaws. Any zoning rules that may exist fall under the community/municipality where the stores are located (not SLGA). Interested bidders are advised to familiarize themselves with any local zoning bylaws/issues before participating in the auction.

Will the names of the winning bidders be publicized?
Yes. Names of winning bidders will be posted on slga.com within five days of the auction closing. As is normal process, the winning bidder will still need to proceed through the regular licensing process before the permit is issued.

Are there any restrictions about how many retail liquor stores one operator can own?
In communities where there are multiple liquor stores, a single operator cannot hold all the permits. This is in place to help ensure variety and competitiveness in the marketplace.

Are these new permits for standalone stores only?
Retail liquor stores operating in communities with a population greater than 5,000 must operate a standalone store (freestanding or store-within-a-store configuration). In smaller communities (less than 5,000), liquor sales can take place within an existing business or can be operated as a standalone store. This has not changed.

How can I find out if a specific community/RM is eligible for a retail liquor permit?
As announced in May 2019, future retail liquor permits are being allocated based on the population of the community/RM and the number of existing permits. Communities/RMs must have a population base of at least 500 in order to be eligible for a retail liquor store. If someone expresses interest in a community where there is a permit available, the permit will be allocated via an online auction process. To find out if a community/RM has an available retail liquor permit, please send your name, phone number, email address and community to ll@slga.gov.sk.ca

Why is the policy population based?
Government committed to establishing a population based matrix as part of the implementation to an expanded private retail liquor system. Population provides an objective way to decide on the maximum number of retail liquor stores in communities.

Where can I find more detailed information about the allocation of retail store permits including the open bid process?
Specific information about the open bid process and the overall allocation of retail store permits can be found in Chapter 9 of SLGA’s Commercial Permittee manual. The relevant information can be viewed by clicking here.

SLGA’s Commercial Permittee manual also outlines the operating rules associated with holding liquor permits in Saskatchewan. You can find the complete manual online by clicking here.

I still have questions. Where can I get more information?
You can email SLGA.