AUGUSTA, Maine – After spending years preparing to bid on the new state wholesale liquor contract, and successfully appealing this spring when part of it was awarded to someone else, Ford Reiche has decided to walk away.
The president of Dirigo Spirits and former Auburn businessman said Friday his company decided not to bid again on the marketing portion of the state liquor contract after Maine rewrote its request for proposals.
“We were interested in bidding on this when the state had a higher priority in recovering sales from New Hampshire,” Reiche said.
New bids were due July 25. Only Pine State Trading Co. submitted an application, according to David Heidrich Jr,. a spokesman for Maine’s Department of Administration and Finances, which oversees the contracts and bids for the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.
The Gardiner-based Pine State Trading had been awarded the marketing contract over Dirigo Spirits and others earlier this year.
The award was taken away after Dirigo Spirits appealed, arguing Pine State was in conflict of interest because it did a significant business in wine sales in New Hampshire. The original request for proposal suggested bidders would not be qualified if they were selling liquor and wine in other states.
In May, the appeal was heard by a review panel, which later decided to cancel the Pine State award and reopen the bidding process with a revised request for proposal.
Under the rewritten request for proposal, the state is allowing bidders to sell as much as 5 percent of their total sales in New Hampshire, which allowed Pine State to remain an eligible bidder.
Heidrich said a review panel would decide within the next two weeks whether or not it would award the contract to Pine State again.
The original plan for bidding the 10-year liquor contract under former Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations Director Gerry Reid depended heavily on the state recapturing sales from New Hampshire by offering more competitive prices for liquor as well as wine and beer.
The contract was broken into two parts, a smaller one for marketing and a larger one for warehousing and distribution. Pine Tree also was awarded the latter this spring.
Revenue from the new contracts, which have more lucrative terms for the state, is being counted on to pay back bonds for $183 million that the state took out to pay back Medicaid debt owed to hospitals in 2013.