CALGARY -- A new survey is highlighting the toll the COVID-19 crisis is having on Alberta restaurants, with one-in-two owners concerned they’ll be forced to closed within three months if conditions don’t improve.

Current restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus prevent restaurants from welcoming customers inside, so many of the businesses are now offering curb side pickup or delivery instead.

The survey by Restaurants Canada says 75 per cent of respondents are very or extremely concerned about their level of debt.

Three quarters of restaurants say rent is the main source of debt and many won’t be able to recover, even after the restrictions are eased, without long term solutions and support from the government.

A number of businesses in Calgary have already announced their permanent closure as a result of the devastating combination of the pandemic and the economic downturn.

After eight years in business, Oak Tree Tavern and Lounge in Kensington has closed its doors.

In an online post, management said the current COVID-19 situation has made it impossible to stay in business.

Down the street, Midtown Kitchen is also permanently shuttering. The restaurant's owners blamed "difficult landlords" and the pandemic as contributing factors in the decision.

The federal government has taken steps to help small businesses — including the introduction of the wage subsidy program and access to emergency loans — and the Prime Minister has announced a new rent assistance program for businesses.

The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program will help small businesses cover their rents for April, May, and June and is being rolled out in collaboration with the provinces and territories.

Restaurants Canada is calling for an immediate moratorium on evictions and lock-outs for commercial tenants, rent assistance at a percentage in line with decreased revenue and measures that continue while the economy is still in recovery. 

"Even the most experienced restaurateurs are struggling to meet their rent obligations, through no fault of their own, due to the unprecedented circumstances we’re all now facing,” said Shanna Munro, Restaurants Canada president and CEO, in a statement.

The survey of 914 food service operators was conducted between April 15 and 21.