The Derby Cow Palace, a restaurant that raises its own buffalo to serve to diners, was expecting its highest tour bus traffic ever in 2020 — 32 buses bound to Québec from the U.S.
Hundreds more travelers were expected to make the journey by car, stopping to eat at the popular 160-seat restaurant in Derby and to hand-feed the friendly elk pastured next to the parking lot.
COVID-19 put the kibosh on those trips, and the extended closure of the Canadian border has deterred travelers from plying the busy route through Derby to Québec. Manager Melissa Nelson said Monday she hopes that Canada’s decision, announced Monday, to start letting American citizens and residents into Canada will get that traffic flowing again.
“That would be great news for us,” said Nelson. “It’s a huge part of our business.”
The Canadian government announced that fully vaccinated U.S. tourists will be able to enter the country on August 9 without quarantining in a hotel, “provided the COVID situation is under control.”
Fully vaccinated tourists from other countries will be able to enter September 7, but they might face random testing at the border, according to Canada’s public health agency.
Canada-bound U.S. travelers will be required to provide COVID-19 information through the country's ArriveCan site, including proof of vaccination, and also must carry a paper or digital copy of their vaccination information in English or French.
Vermont’s congressional delegation is trying to find out more about the reciprocity of the border reopening. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said he’d been asking Canada for weeks to ease border restrictions. He noted that more than 80 percent of eligible Vermonters have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, a relatively high number compared to the population in Canada and to other U.S. states.
“Canada’s announcement that it will open its border to fully vaccinated Americans is an important and long overdue step on our path to a full reopening,” he said Monday. “Too many Vermonters have experienced the heartbreak of being separated from their loved ones and the passing of moments they will never get back. The Biden Administration needs to act without delay in ensuring this change is reflected on both sides of the border.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said he was delighted to hear that the border would open to vaccinated Americans.
"I believe it is important for us to follow Canada's lead and reopen our side of the border to fully vaccinated Canadians for non-essential travel purposes," said Vermont's senior senator.
Canadian travelers account for at least half of the visitors to some of Vermont’s hospitality businesses.
One is the Jay Peak ski area, which is located just four miles south of the border. When the border was closed in March 2020, Jay Peak refunded season passes or credited them to the following year’s season. Half of the resort’s guests usually come from Canada, said general manager Steve Wright.
Burke Mountain resort, about 140 miles southeast of Montréal, also gets about half of its visits from Canada in a normal year, said Kevin Mack, the resort’s operations manager. Burke is owned by Jay Peak.
“Clearly, it’s above all of our pay grades here, but with the news the Canadians just announced, hopefully on the American side they will do something similar for our Canadian friends, as well,” Mack said.
Meanwhile, said Mack, he and his wife will probably start traveling to
Québec City again after August 9. It's something they did frequently before the shutdown. Nelson, the manager of Cow Palace, also plans to head north as soon as possible. She used to cross into Canada a few times a week, and her kids were on a cross-border hockey league.
“They have great shopping there, and there are some wonderful places to eat,” she said.