A road scheme where workers have been been accused of "putting their feet up" could over-run by weeks unless there is a complete street closure, a council has said.
Angry shop owners said the proposed seven-week closure before Christmas would finish struggling businesses off.
A new one-way system in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, was due to be completed by the end of October.
Dacorum council said the road closure would allow work to finish by December.
Hertfordshire County Council, which is running the project on behalf of Dacorum Borough Council, has already installed CCTV cameras to check on workers involved in the scheme in Old Town High Street.
Businesses are demanding compensation for a drop in trade and said many could be forced out of business.
James Doe from Dacorum council said the over-run was due to "unexpected delays".
"What we are working really hard to do is try and minimise disruption any further," he said.
On Thursday, both councils and contractor Jackson Civil Engineering met business owners and suggested a complete road closure to get the work completed by 2 December.
A spokesman for the contractor said the meeting was "productive" and on Monday it would present "a set of alternative options for completing the works".
Fiona Rolls from F and R Fashion said she had not paid herself a salary for "some months" which was "100% because of the roadworks".
"[The council] forget Christmas trade happens from most retailers from October - it will kill me completely," she said.
Barry Garvin, from Fretts music shop, said his takings were down 40% because of the "mismanaged" project.
"Any closure will be an upheaval, but a seven-week closure at the busiest time of year for us all is a suicidal project... it cannot happen," he said.
"At the beginning, we were told any road closures would just be a matter of hours apart from a one-week closure in October. We have already had a four-week closure."