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Plans for big store had been studied

Crown corporation mulled giant Liquor Mart in 2015

SUPPLIED</p><p>True North Square will include a 50,000-square-foot Liquor Mart, which would be the largest liquor store in Canada.</p>

SUPPLIED

True North Square will include a 50,000-square-foot Liquor Mart, which would be the largest liquor store in Canada.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/11/2016 (1160 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Scathing criticism by Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries officials of the lack of research into a giant Liquor Mart downtown is under scrutiny after the revelation the Crown corporation studied opening a large-scale, multi-faceted liquor store almost two years ago.

The Crown corporation confirmed a request for proposal for a retail space consultant was issued in January 2015. It called for the consultant to study the "feasibility" of a new Liquor Mart concept called "Liquor Mart Occasions" — a store that incorporates a liquor store, along with space devoted to speciality foods, a brewery, lotto tickets and a conference room available for rental or special promotions.

MLL could not confirm if the plan for the large-scale flagship Liquor Mart at True North Square downtown would become one of these "occasions" stores. However, sources told the Free Press the plan that was on the table when the lease offer was signed in December 2015 included these components, plus the long-anticipated downtown grocery store.

This comes one day after the CEO and chairwoman of MLL spent hours painting a picture to the Crowns committee of a proposal for a politically motivated, stand-alone liquor store in True North Square that would be the largest in Canada. They said there was no evidence the property had been studied by the former board or that a consultant had been hired to study the feasibility of the plan. There was no mention of the previously studied "Liquor Mart Occasions" plan.

The 50,000-square-foot area would include a liquor store, but the Crown corporation would also lease out parts of the property to other retailers, sources said.

Acting CEO Peter Hak told the committee Wednesday, "I don’t think you would get whatever sales you need to make a 50,000-square-foot liquor store downtown viable."

When questioned by Progressive Conservative committee members Wednesday, Hak and chairwoman Polly Craik chose their words carefully, specifying there was no evidence for "this property," referring to True North Square.

"Have you had an opportunity to discover the board’s decision-making process?" Tory MLA James Teitsma asked.

"As it relates to this item, I was unable to find any documentation leading up to the decision that was made by the board," Craik replied.

"There were no documents to support what we were going to do with the 50,000 square feet," Hak said later in the meeting.

The Liquor Mart was announced under the former NDP government in February as one of the tenants of Tower 1 in True North Sports & Entertainment’s $400-million plan for an entertainment square downtown. The lease deal was signed before the board was replaced after the Tories’ victory in the provincial election and under then-CEO John Stinson, who was let go in October.

A spokeswoman for MLL said a submission was made to the NDP government’s priority and planning committee in September 2015 with the details of what a Liquor Mart Occasions store would look like.

Premier Brian Pallister criticized the proposed Liquor Mart Thursday but added he needs to collect more evidence on the decision-making process.

"You could argue that a liquor store that is perhaps three times the size of average biggest liquor stores in Canada is not a sustainable tenant," he said.

In a statement, True North said it wasn’t "made aware of the issues raised Wednesday in the legislature."

"As a result, until we have had a chance to speak to all the necessary stakeholders involved and fully understand any or all of the potential issues that may be facing our tenant, True North will not be replying or commenting further through the media at this time," the company said.

kristin.annable@freepress.mb.ca

 

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History

Updated on Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 7:41 PM CST: added NDP response from Wednesday

7:52 PM: minor editing

November 18, 2016 at 7:30 AM: Edited

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