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Saskatchewan uncorks plan for two new private liquor stores in Saskatoon

REGINA - The Saskatchewan government says planned private liquor stores in Saskatoon and Regina won't take business away from government outlets.

"You know it's exciting times in Saskatchewan, so it's not a matter of slicing the pie thinner," said Donna Harpauer, minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA).

"What we're finding in our existing SLGA stores in that we're maxed in trying to meet the customer demand, so I think there's enough market for all of these stores to exist and have a healthy existence."

The province announced Tuesday that Saskatoon Co-op will operate a store in the Blairmore neighbourhood and Sobeys will have one in Stonebridge. In Regina, Sobeys will operate a new store in the Rochdale neighbourhood and Willow Park Wines and Spirits will open a store in Harbour Landing.

All the stores are expected to open next year.

The private stores will be able to set their own prices — subject to what is known as social reference pricing. Social reference pricing means products cannot be sold for less than a set minimum price to reduce over consumption and binge drinking.

The private stores will also be allowed to open from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. —longer than publicly owned liquor stores.

Jeff Hodgson, with Sobeys, says the grocery giant — which also has liquor stores in Alberta — jumped at the chance to get into the Saskatchewan market.

"At the end of the day, we have the ability to source our own products, as the SLGA has outlined and allowed us to. We have access to everything that we carry in Alberta — Alberta has probably the largest database of products in the country as far as what you have available because it is a free market," said Hodgson.

"We'll have more."

There are already private franchises in Saskatchewan, but only in rural communities where the SLGA has allowed businesses to sell alcohol on its behalf.

Harpauer says the new private stores are in locations in Saskatoon and Regina that were underserved by existing public stores. She says there could be more private stores down the road as communities grow.

"We'll see where the growth is and where the markets says that there is room for more outlets."

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