OTTAWA -- As Ottawa Police report a surge in break-and-enters during the COVID-19 crisis, a restaurant in the ByWard Market says it was hit Friday night.

Fatboys Southern Smokehouse on Murray Street is boarded up after a thief smashed a window and crawled through the restaurant to avoid alarm sensors, owner Shawn Dawson told CTV News Ottawa.

“They ended up stealing a lot of expensive bourbons, booze and some beer,” he said, adding that the restaurant didn’t have any cash on site.

Ottawa Police say they’ve seen a 70 per cent increase in break-and-enters in the past month, with many businesses shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic and the streets largely empty.

Police have stepped up patrols in areas with many businesses forced to close. They have also released several tips for business owners, such as posting signs saying there’s no money on the premises and placing the empty cash tray in plain view on the counter.

Some bars in the ByWard Market, such as the Heart and Crown and the Aulde Dubliner, have boarded up their windows and doors to deter would-be thieves.

Dawson said police were “amazing” when they came to the restaurant to investigate the break-in, and did so thoroughly. “But there’s a lot for them to do,” he said.

He’s asking neighbours to keep an eye out for suspicious activity near small businesses.

“You’re our eyes and ears out there,” he said.

The break-in at Fatboys caused about $3,500 in damage, Dawson said. That’s compounded by the fact that he’s losing more than that every week because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The restaurant has had to let go all of its staff, he said.

“It’s a lot when you start considering the fact that it’s costing us about $5,000 a week just to stay in business, with no revenue,” he said. “Everybody’s got a lot of problems going on right now, we understand that. But it’s tough for small businesses. Small restaurants, especially.”

- With files from CTV News Ottawa's Stefan Keyes