Court rejects challenge to state liquor contract
As Exel Inc. prepares to open a new liquor warehouse in Bow and begin a new 20-year contract with the state liquor commission, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has said it won’t review a request from Law Warehouses Inc. to void that contract.
Law Warehouses alleged the liquor commission allowed Ohio-based Exel to ignore certain bid requirements and violated competitive bidding standards when it selected the company over Law and three other potential contractors, according to court documents. Law’s petition to the Supreme Court also accused the commission of tainting the bidding process with “strong personal dislike” for its owner, Brian Law.
Under the new contract, the state will turn its liquor warehousing business over to Exel on Nov. 1. Court documents show the contract’s estimated value to be $200 million.
A court file of more than 800 pages details the competitive bidding process for the state contract and the back-and-forth between Law and the liquor commission. Based in Nashua, Law Warehouses had been storing and shipping spirits for the state for more than 40 years when the contract went up to bid again in 2012. In November, the state announced it would sign a new 20-year warehouse contract with Exel.
Exel has also won its bid on a separate contract to transport the liquor and wine to the 77 retail stores across the state.
“If the contract proceeds, approximately 90 percent of (Law Warehouse’s) workforce – about 80 employees – will lose their jobs,” the company’s petition to the Supreme Court reads.
On June 20, a Hillsborough County Superior Court judge denied Law’s bid for a preliminary injunction to block the new contract from taking effect in November. Law’s lawyers turned to the Supreme Court, asking the court to block the contract.
On Sept. 25, the Supreme Court denied that petition. While the parties are still arguing legal fees in court, the state’s contract with Exel will continue to move forward.
State Liquor Commissioner Joseph Mollica declined to talk about the lawsuit, and Law Warehouses did not respond to a request for comment.
Bow Town Manager David Stack also declined to comment on the lawsuit, but he said the new warehouse will be a huge benefit for local taxpayers when the town begins collecting property taxes on the facility.
The large warehouse operation could also attract others to build in Bow, Stack said.
“My thought is now you do have such a large facility (in Bow) and it is operated by Exel. . . . That will at least bring attention if someone hadn’t even thought about whether they could locate here,” he said. “Now they have some examples.”
Exel spent $20 million to build the new warehouse on Route 3A, which spans 247,000 square feet, Mollica said.
The company held a job fair in Concord last month and has hired 85 warehouse employees and 10 drivers to manage its business in New Hampshire.
“We’re really happy,” Stack said. “They seem like a great company, and we’ve been pleased at least with our dealings with them. They have jumped right into being active in the community.”
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)