It’s fair to say that restaurants and hotels were among the harder hit by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is something the owners of the Sharbot Lake Country Inn & Crossing Pub know first-hand.

Before COVID-19 struck, the inn was a local hotspot for frequent live music and dinner events, and a destination for travellers to spend the night. Unfortunately, COVID caused several things to happen in quick succession: restaurants were closed, live music was not permitted, and people in general stopped travelling.

This is when the Sharbot Lake Inn owners, Sandra and Frank White, began to seriously think about how to modify business operations to remain sustainable. The goal was to make it through the frequent lockdowns and maintain their staff and customer base in the interim.

Sandra knew that while indoor dining would inevitably reopen, the restaurant at the inn had previously used large, communal tables for diners to use, which would restrict the number of customers the restaurant could accommodate with physical distancing restrictions. This gave Sandra no choice but to modify operations to offer take-out only at the restaurant, something which was not sustainable.

These issues were the impetus for applying for the Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization’s (OHTO) Tourism Recovery and Innovation Program (TRIP) Capital Projects funding in early 2021.  Funded by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, the TRIP Capital Projects program provided up to 80 per cent funding to cover capital purchases, which was just what the Sharbot Lake Country Inn & Crossing Pub needed.

Sandra applied for and received funding for $20,000 from the TRIP program that allowed her to purchase new interior tables for the restaurant, the construction of an outdoor covered dining area, and the installation of a keyless remote entry system for the inn.

“We didn’t know how long we were going to be in lockdown and doing take-out and we wanted to have the area set up so it would be convenient for people to come in and do pick-up orders,” Sandra explained.

The funding enabled Sandra to have new booths made for use indoors that would replace some of the existing tables. The booths were designed to be removable so that when live music returned to the scene they would have more flexibility.

On the covered patio, Sandra noted they could fit 60 in the space but because of changing public health guidelines, they wanted to ensure the tables weren’t moveable, which limited the available space to up to 40 guests.

“I also wanted the patio to be covered rather than trying to buy umbrellas, then you could be out there if there was a little bit of drizzle or rain…it allowed us to continue to operate no matter the weather,” Sandra explained.

The keyless entry for the inn allowed guests to access their rooms without having to interact directly with staff, which protected both staff and guests from possible exposure to COVID-19.

“The keyless entry really helped a lot…with this technology now we don’t have to be site when guests arrive,” Sandra said.

Sandra looks back at the application process and working with OHTO and the application process as easy to navigate.

“They were very easy to deal with, I was surprised by how quickly the whole process came through,” Sandra said.

What’s next for the busy restaurant and inn is hopefully to expand spring hours and provide more opportunities for life to get back to normal.

“We’re looking forward to having a good season.”

About OHTO’s Tourism Recovery & Innovation Program – Capital Projects Stream

The TRIP-Capital Grants stream is geared specifically to small to medium-sized tourism businesses to offset up to 80% of eligible capital expenses incurred to modify operations to a maximum of $20,000 in non-repayable funding, including expenses incurred back to June 1, 2020.  

For more information about other available OHTO funding programs, please visit

About FedDev Ontario

For more than 12 years, FedDev Ontario has worked to advance and diversify the southern Ontario economy through funding opportunities and business services that support innovation and growth in Canada’s most populous region. The Agency has delivered impressive results, which can be seen in southern Ontario businesses that are creating innovative technologies, improving their productivity, growing their revenues, and in the economic advancement of communities across the region. Learn more about the Agency’s impact in southern Ontario by exploring Southern Ontario Spotlightpivotal projectsTwitterFacebookInstagram and LinkedIn.