April 22, 2018
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Four Maine companies bid for state liquor contract

Russ Dillingham | Sun Journal
Russ Dillingham | Sun Journal
Retired liquor executive Gerry Reid, the current head of the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations in Maine.
By Kathryn Skelton, Sun Journal

AUGUSTA, Maine — Four companies will bid for parts of the state’s new wholesale liquor contract.

Bids were due Thursday by 2 p.m., with the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations releasing the names minutes later.

Financial details won’t be made public until a review team makes an award, according to BABLO Deputy Director Timothy Poulin.

All Maine Spirits LLC and Pine State Trading, both of Augusta, submitted bids to run spirits administration.

CDM Communications in Portland, Dirigo Spirit Company LLC in Cumberland and Pine State Trading bid on spirits trade marketing.

Dirigo Spirit’s president is Ford Reiche, the same entrepreneur who founded Safe Handling in Auburn.

The new contract award could be made anytime this winter or spring.

Maine is one of 18 states that controls hard liquor sales. The state’s current contract with Maine Beverage Co. to run that system has been dogged as a bad deal. The 10-year contract, which runs through June 2014, promised the company an annual 36.8 percent profit guarantee in exchange for an upfront $125 million payment to the state and about $8 million a year.

State officials say the contract made Maine Beverage hundreds of millions of dollars.

The new contract simply asked companies to bid on the cost to run spirits administration and spirits trade marketing for the next 10 years.

Gerry Reid, head of BABLO, has forecast that the different approach could mean more than $500 million to the state over the next 10 years, versus about $200 million for the current 10-year contract.

BABLO started accepting bids Oct. 3, but the request for proposals had been months in the making.

It couldn’t be formalized until the state and Legislature agreed on the new contract’s terms, ultimately including language that would cover a $183.5 million bond to pay old MaineCare debt owed to Maine hospitals.

Part of the new contract also includes a state strategy to increase marketing and lower liquor prices in an effort to recapture some of the millions of dollars in spirit sales lost to New Hampshire each year.

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