AUGUSTA — Four companies will vie for parts of the state's new wholesale liquor contract.
Bids were due by 2 p.m. Thursday, and the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations released the names minutes later.
Financial details won't be made public until a review team makes an award, bureau Director Timothy Poulin said.
All Maine Spirits and Pine State Trading, both based in Augusta, submitted bids to run the spirits administration.
CDM Communications in Portland, Dirigo Spirit Company in Cumberland and Pine State Trading bid on the spirits trade marketing.
Dirigo Spirit's president is Ford Reiche, who founded Safe Handling in Auburn. Reiche had originally planned to bid on both parts of the contract. He declined to say Thursday what had changed, other than, "We're really excited about our proposal."
The new contract award could be made anytime this coming 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, guaranteed the company an annual 36.8 percent profit in exchange for an upfront $125 million payment to the state and about $8 million per year.
State officials say the contract made hundreds of millions of dollars for Maine Beverage.
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 the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, has said 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.
The bureau 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 the Legislature agreed on the new contract's terms, ultimately including language that would cover a $183.5 million bond to pay MaineCare debt owed to Maine hospitals.
Part of the new contract 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.