The food, bar and hospitality industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic across the province.

Business at the Champetre County Resort has been greatly slowed by the pandemic.

The Champetre County Wild West Saloon/Howling Coyote Resort is normally a hotspot for tourists this time of year. It has been open since 1995 and is located roughly 45 minutes west of Saskatoon, just off Highway 5.

Whether it be weddings, functions or vacations, the site sees upwards of 4,000 visitors per year, says its owner. But this year it’s become a destination staycation for many locals.

Since the pandemic began, the business has had to try new ways to help attract people, said Champetre Country co-owner Francine Edmondson. The business has had to use every aspect of its resort to the fullest, including the saloon, green spaces, animal interacting areas and restaurant.

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Edmondson says a lot of their visitors this year have been from smaller communities over a wider area in the province.

“We didn’t know it would be like this,” said Edmondson. “People really stepped up to the plate in supporting local people, local customers, local businesses.”

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In some cases, restaurants in rural areas have had to temporarily close their doors as a result of COVID-19.

That is the situation for the Olive Tree Restaurant on Highway 12, located roughly 40 minutes north of Saskatoon.

“We are not going to open unless the restrictions (are) lifted,” said co-owner Michael Pantermarakis. “It’s not worth it to be open right now.”

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Resort general manager/co-owner Todd Edmondson says it has been a challenge to stay afloat. They have had to get creative in everyday operations.

“Your running into obviously more overhead with employees coming in the door and that (cost of having) a decrease in business,” said Todd Edmondson.

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“It’s really a fine line to maneuver and still stay on the plus side of things.”

The owners say normally, people come from all over the country and the United States. In some cases, they use the resort as a base camp for their business.

Kyle Pinnegar has made the trip from southern Ontario for the last six years. He usually stays for two months segments for his hunting outfitter. He says there are usually 12-15 customers per week. This year only a couple of groups.

“It’s like a second home to me. Todd and Francine are absolutely amazing,” said Pinnegar. “They have a world-class place here.”

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With national and international travel slowed by the pandemic, people are choosing the staycation option a lot more. That is especially the case with guests coming to the resort.

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“A lot of people I believe are truly surprised at what Saskatchewan has to offer and they don’t have to go far,” said Todd Edmondson.

The drop in business may be drastic, but with the customers, they are seeing means the world the owners and allows them to keep the site in operation.

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She says even having two people coming through the door, it helps with our sanity.

“We’re still able to do what we love to do and put a smile on people’s faces,” said Francine Edmondson. “This has been a huge factor in us being able to smile.”

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