EUREKA — It's been 20 months since the border between the U.S. and Canada was open to non-essential travel.
While Canada officially opened their side of the border in August, on Monday, the United States officially joined them in reopening to Canadian visitors. Reporter Sean Wells headed to the Port of Roosville near Eureka to learn about what this opening means for small businesses along the border.
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First and Last Chance Bar and Duty-Free Store is located just 200 yards from the Port of Roosville border crossing and has been open since 1972 every day out of the year except for Christmas.
Bar and Duty-Free Store owner David Clarke says his business was turned upside down when the border closed in March of 2020, relying strictly on local customers to get by. “If we hadn’t of had them, we would have been shut down.”
Clarke says his business relies heavily on Canadian tourism, he had to act quickly and apply for PPP loans and grants through the State of Montana to stay afloat. “We would’ve been to zero checking account and zero savings and those have really helped out.”
Canadian travelers need to be fully vaccinated to enter the United States, they must also provide a negative COVID-19 test to return to Canada regardless of vaccination status within 72 hours of arrival.
Clarke says the cost of the test will scare away day-trippers who stimulate the local economy. “The ones that come down and maybe gas up their vehicles, do a little grocery shopping, have a meal and go home, it’s an outing for them.”
Clarke says he hopes testing requirements will be lifted soon, allowing regular customers from Canada to once again come down and frequent his establishment.
“Because our coffee drinkers we have six days a week, we had three or four of them every day Monday through Saturday. They come down watch the news, talk with each other be here about an hour-and-a-half to two hours and then they would go home. And that way a daily occurrence. We haven’t seen them in 20 months.” - First and Last Chance Bar and Duty-Free Store owner David Clarke
A full list of requirements and guidelines on border travel is available at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.
The reopening of the Canadian border is welcome news to Montanans. Montana shares nearly 550 miles of border with our neighbor to the north and there are more than 13 crossings across that shared border.
A 2020 report from the Bureau of Business and Economic Research showed that in 2018, Canadian visitors made up 10% of all non-resident travelers to the state. Recreational shopping was among the top three activities for visiting Canadians.
Many Montanans may also have family in Canada as well. A 2020 fact sheet from the American Immigration Council found 15% of immigrants in Montana were from Canada.