There is a troubling warning out from a group advocating for the food service industry in this country.

Restaurants Canada is again calling on all levels of government for rent relief, warning that businesses are concerned about the debt their carrying and are worried they may not survive.

Based on a survey of nearly 1,000 Canadian restaurants released Thursday, the non-profit is warning that one out of every two independent restaurants could close permanently if conditions don’t improve over the next three months. Businesses with more than one location will have to permanently shut down at least one of their locations, the survey suggests.

The group commended the Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program, announced by the federal government last week, and is awaiting more details. But it says loans might only delay business owners worries, with 75 per cent of respondents identifying rent as their main source of debt.

“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 release.

“COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll on small businesses, with restaurants being among the hardest hit. Even once restrictions are eased, they’re still going to need help to avoid closing down due to crushing levels of debt.”

Restaurants Canada is calling for a moratorium on evictions, rent assistance on a sliding scale that matches a business’ decline in revenue, in addition to continued support once the economic recovery begins.