AUGUSTA — Negotiations for a future contract for the state’s wholesale liquor could begin in the next few weeks.

A plan outlined before the Appropriations Committee on Friday calls for a negotiated contract process to choose a party to provide warehousing and delivery services.

It’s estimated that the next contract, which will have different terms than the current one, could provide an additional $25.8 million in net revenue to the state annually. In recent years, the state has been receiving about $17.6 million a year.

Sawin Millett, commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, told the committee that the process would be less formal than the usual request for proposal procedure but would open the door to the same parties. Millett said each party would be able to put a plan on the table and defend it.

MIllett said an RFP process would take time and carries the possibility of an appeal, which could put the state in an awkward position as it tries to meet its June 2013 deadline for having a new agreement in place.

The current contract, held by Maine Beverage Co., expires in 2014. The parties signed the 10-year lease in 2004 for $125 million. The $125 million was paid at the start of the contract term and the state now receives funds through revenue sharing and taxes.

Gerry Reid, director of the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, said the services the state needs are very specific and there aren’t many parties – probably about a half dozen — that can perform them. He said the state knows that the current cost of the operation is $7 million annually, so the aim is to meet or beat that number in the new contract.

The state will have to have an RFP ready by fall in case the negotiated contract process doesn’t yield a favorable deal for the state, Millett said.


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