November 15, 2013

Four companies bid for Maine liquor contract

Maine Beverage Co., which holds the current $125 million contract, did not submit a bid.

By Jessica Hall
Staff Writer

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Four companies have submitted bids to run all or parts of the state’s wholesale liquor operations under a 10-year contract.

2012 Press Herald File Photo / Shawn Patrick Ouellette

The four Maine companies bidding on the liquor contract have different backgrounds.

Pine State Trading currently distributes Maine’s liquor in its distinctive yellow and green trucks under an agreement with Maine Beverage Co. It bid for both the administration and logistics of the contract, as well as the marketing aspects.

Meanwhile, All Maine Spirits, formed last year by six Maine residents for the sole purpose of bidding on the liquor contract, bid for just the administration and logistics parts of the contract. Its chairman is Eben Marsh of Scarborough, who served as director of the Maine Bureau of Liquor and Lottery Operations under Gov. Angus King.

All Maine Spirits could not be immediately reached for comment.

For the marketing portion of the contract, there were two bidders.

CDM Communications of Portland is a marketing and advertising agency that works with clients ranging from Oxford Casinos to Dead River Co. to Kennebunck Savings Bank. The company declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Dirigo Spirit is led by Ford Reiche, co-founder and former president of Maine logistics company Safe Handling. That business, a rail-to-truck transportation logistics company that shipped and warehoused 1 billion pounds of products a year for customers including Country Kitchen and Poland Spring., was sold to Savage Services Corp. in 2009.

“This RFP was very well crafted and executed by the state of Maine. They are well on the way to a great and well-deserved outcome for our state. We are very pleased with the proposal which Dirigo Spirit was able to present. And very proud to put have together such a team and set of resources over the past two years. Dirigo Spirit Company is feeling confident,” Reiche said in a statement.

In January, LePage said the state would retain operational control over liquor sales when the current contract expires. Gerald Reid, director of the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, however, later clarified that the state would only take over administration of the liquor operations if no bids were acceptable.

The language in the liquor contract grew out of debates among legislators about the best way to structure the contract.

LePage’s proposal, L.D. 239, sought to award a 10-year contract for managing the state’s liquor operations, leaving the state to use annual profits to repay a revenue bond that would be used to retire the hospital debt. The competing bill, L.D. 644, proposed by Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, sought to collect an upfront payment of $200 million from the chosen vendor, allowing the state to repay hospitals without borrowing money. In the end, legislators decided that it would be more financially beneficial to Maine to have the bidders submit bids based on their costs of providing services, with excess profits flowing to the state.

Jessica Hall may be reached at 791-6316 or at:

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