LONDON, ONT. -- Even on a bright, sunny spring-like day, the village of Port Stanley is a ghost town.

Only a handful of businesses are deemed essential and open. There are concerns that if the pandemic lasts through the summer, some of them may never open their doors again.

"Port Stanley winters are tough in a seasonal town and businesses hang on through the winter to get to these spring days," says Carol Gates, chair of the Port Stanley BIA.

"This is when they make up ground, and seeing them shuttered and closed, it’s devastating."

This comes at a time when contractors are preparing to split the fishing village in half with a massive construction project.

Drivers were taking advantage Monday of the bridge being down, because as of April 21 it will no longer be operational for the next 13 months.

Premier Doug Ford announced that construction projects for transportation could be deemed essential, and that's great news for those who want the bridge renovation project done as soon as possible.

"The county has deemed the King George rehabilitation as a critical project in urgent need of repair," says project manager Brian Lima.

"The businesses that will support us in the repairs are deemed essential."

The contractor has mobilized the site just south of the bridge with equipment and trailers arriving Monday.

While businesses say this is the best time to start a project because nothing is open, the big question is which store owners will be able to withstand the hit from the COVID-19 crisis?

Who will be still around when the project is finished?

Gates says it's frightening to think what would happen if the pandemic continues, and the village remains closed for the summer.

"To miss May through September would be crippling,' says Gates, who also owns GT's On The Beach.

"It would be like missing 90 per cent of business in this town . Every week, and every month goes by its more concerning for more people."

Meanwhile, Lima says COVID-19 shouldn't affect the timeline of the project.

"Everything is fluid right now," says Lima.

"Our contractor remains confident and expects to have this project completed by May 2021."