Thompson could have a new Liquor Mart by as early as the summer of 2017 if the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries plan to construct a larger store to replace its current Selkirk Avenue location proceeds as planned.
Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries representatives were in Thompson in the last week of March, presenting their plans to council on March 28 and at a public information session at the Thompson Regional Community Centre on March 29. They will be back again in May to present their plans at a Thompson Chamber of Commerce meeting.
The new store would be located in the northwest corner of the City Centre Mall parking lot near the intersection of Mystery Lake Road and Thompson Drive, across the street from City Hall.
Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries has a number of reasons for wanting to relocate from its current facility, which was constructed in 1975, including sales volume and storage efficiency.
“We strongly believe the building is inadequate for all of our operational needs and is not appealing to our customers,” Thompson Liquor Mart sales manager Gilles Salesse told council March 28. “Our retail location currently services more than 195,000 customers annually. Our current Liquor Mart sales area is only about 3,000 square feet. Typically, Liquor Marts with similar sales exceed 10,000 square feet.”
The two-storey Selkirk Avenue building also makes receiving and storing products a hassle, said Salesse.
“Product storage is located in the basement and requires shipment to be taken downstairs and then back up before going onto the sales floor, resulting in a lot of double-handling,” he said. “Staff currently unloads approximately 40,000 pounds of freight each week and our current outdated procedure makes handling of our inventory very difficult and inefficient.”
The location near the mall also aligns with what Liquor Mart customers say they prefer.
“We are also presently not adjacent to any major grocery stores which is always our customers’ preferred location partner,” said Salesse.
The new store, constructed on property leased from City Centre Mall, would be 12,000 square feet overall, with 8,000 of that dedicated to product sales.
“That’s more than double what we have currently in our Selkirk Avenue facility,” said Gerry Sul, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries vice president of facilities, central services, security and surveillance.
Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries has already signed a letter of intent with the company that manages City Centre Mall and has approval to move forward from the Crown corporation’s board.
“We’ve also gotten validation from Walmart who has an option to validate the use of the premises on that property,” said Sul. “It’s reliant on the approvals we require through the City of Thompson to proceed on this project.”
City manager Gary Ceppetelli told the Thompson Citizen those approvals would include site development and construction permits and that the city doesn’t believe rezoning will be required.
The project will be put to public tender for its design and construction, said Sul, and would be required to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver standard certification and exceed the 2011 National Energy Code for buildings under provincial government regulations.
The cost of the project is estimated at $5 million and it is anticipated that construction, which could begin as early as late summer, would create about 10 full-time equivalent construction jobs for a period of one year.
The new store won’t significantly increase the number of employees from what the current Liquor Mart has, though the part-time employees may work more hours. There also won’t likely be any overlap of operation between the two stores.
“Ideally when we move locations, we’ve done it many times in other communities, we operate in the current location right up until the day we open,” said Al Roney, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries executive general manager for retail stores, at the public information session. “Basically we shut down one day and we open up in the new location the next morning and then we transfer the product across.”
Based on current mill rates, Sul said the new store would pay about $45,000 per year more in taxes to the city than the current one.
Councillors were supportive of the proposed relocation, though Coun. Colleen Smook said she wasn’t completely sold on location. Attendees at the public information session March 29 had questions for Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries regarding social responsibility.
Laura Goossen, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries social responsibility program manager, said that the Crown corporation is required to contribute two per cent of its revenues to support things like addiction services and that it has contributed grant funding to programs like sherry bottle collection and the downtown ambassador program in Thompson. She told council that about 22,000 people were asked for identification to prove their age in Thompson’s Liquor Mart last year and that about 840 people were refused sales because they didn’t have it. She also said that about 5,500 people were refused sales last year in Thompson because staff believed they were intoxicated.
Mayor Dennis Fenske said at the public information session that he hoped moving the Liquor Mart to the east side of Mystery Lake Road would alleviate some of the issues the city and businesses have to deal with to the west downtown.
“There is a distinct line at Mystery Lake as to what happens on the east side and what happens on the west side,” said Fenske. “That’s a reality. Locating it on the east side will move some of that issue away and potentially solve some of the downtown issue on the west side because of its proximity to the bars and hotels in the immediate area.”
He also said that while the city was involved in discussions about a new location for Liquor Mart, it did not dictate where a new store should or should not be.