LONDON, ONT. -- A day after dire warnings about the toll COVID-19 will take on local independent businesses this autumn, the search for an economic lifeline is underway.

"November and December are usually the two months we make extra money to live off in January and February," explains Jerry Pribil, owner of Marienbad Restaurant and Chaucer’s Pub.

"We need to come up with short term solutions for long term success. That’s really what it comes down to, and we have to work on it all together," he adds.

On Wednesday, more than a dozen business owners from across London sounded the alarm.

The onset of cooler weather combined with renewed concern about COVID-19 threatens many much-loved establishments.

Committed to following all pandemic safety rules, they’re calling on customers to return to independent restaurants, stores, and entertainment venues.

"I’m waiting to receive some formal communication from the group," says Mayor Ed Holder. "They know their businesses best. They’ll provide suggestions and to as much of an extent as we can help, we shall."

The mayor adds he’ll listen to Ideas about regulatory changes that could help businesses survive the pandemic.

But Holder stops short of committing to a lower than currently estimated commercial property tax increase in the 2021 municipal budget.

"What does next year bring? I think it’s a little bit early," explains Holder. "We’ll discuss the multi year budget and how we can support our economy. I’m not going to prejudge it yet."

Those budget deliberations are scheduled for December.

City hall is estimating COVID-19’s financial impacts on the 2021 budget could hit $20 million next year.

Next week Council is expected to direct $6.3 million from this year’s surplus to a budget stabilization fund for next year, plus $5 million in an economic recovery fund.

Pribil says targeted grants could be a lifeline for some small businesses.

"Introducing some grants for the businesses that can prove their revenue has decreased tremendously."