The most famous small-town hotel in Saskatchewan has to be the one in Rouleau – aka Dog River. Located on Highway 39 southeast of Moose Jaw, Rouleau was the shooting location for the hit Canadian TV show called Corner Gas. The CTV show about life in the fictional town of Dog River created by Saskatchewan comedian Brent Butt ran from 2004 to 2009.
Built in 1905 as the Arlington Hotel, the 42-room hotel in Rouleau had served as a recruiting office during the First World War and as an emergency hospital during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. When A.D. Hierlihy bought the hotel in 1920, it was quite run down. After a great deal of cleaning, painting and redecorating, the Hierlihy moved into the hotel and it was opened for business once again. Tony and Esther Van Oostdam purchased the hotel in 1932, advertising the “Dining Room known for Best of Food and Elegant Service.” Rooms were rented by the day, week or month. The hotel boasted a licensed beverage room after 1935, which served as a meeting place for the men of Rouleau. A fire in the hotel in 1947 necessitated more renovations.
In the summer of 2003, a horde of TV people descended upon the town of 450. The Rouleau Hotel, renamed the Dog River Hotel, was refurbished for filming inside and out. Dressing rooms were installed on the second floor. The hotel is featured frequently in the sitcom. For example, in the episode called “Cell Phone,” Paul Kinistino, the hotel’s Cree bartender, replaces the bar’s shuffleboard game with a claw game, to which Brent’s father Oscar becomes addicted.
On May 20, 2014, the announcement was made for Corner Gas: The Movie. Jian Liu had just purchased the hotel a few months before, renaming it the Rouleau Bar and Grille. He had renovated the building to the point that it no longer looked like it had in the TV sitcom. The movie’s production team had to recreate the Dog River Hotel bar’s interior at the Saskatchewan Sound Stage in Regina.
In Corner Gas: The Movie, the Dog River Hotel again plays a major role. Brent Butt’s character buys the town’s closed bar, somehow managing to run both his gas station and the bar.
In July 2017, the producers of Corner Gas, Prairie Pants Productions, launched the Dog River Walking Tour – a virtual tour of Corner Gas locations – in Rouleau. As part of the walking tour, visitors get a postcard with a map of Dog River destinations, including the hotel. Each of the buildings in Rouleau used as shooting locations have bronze plaques with QR codes (two dimensional barcodes). When scanned on a smartphone, fans are linked to a website with facts and video clips from the show.
The most recent version of Corner Gas – Corner Gas Animated – can now be seen on CTV and The Comedy Network. In the animation, the Dog River Hotel and Bar is owned by an Indigenous character named Phil, played by Nlaka’pamux actor Kevin Loring.
The Dog River Hotel is still open for drinks and food, helping to keep the legacy of Corner Gas – and the town of Rouleau – alive.