Nine months into a construction project that will last another three years, merchants on Bishop St. say the odds their businesses will survive are slim.

That's why they have filed a lawsuit against the city of Montreal and the STM.

Last October, the STM began a massive project to replace one of the 80 ventilation towers that bring air to the metro system.

The new tower is located at 1421 Bishop St., halfway between Ste. Catherine St. and De Maisonneuve Blvd., but the work zone covers more than half of the block.

Signs and fences in front of the construction zone are so tall that passersby walking down the street cannot even see the stores.

Forty parking spaces were removed, one lane of traffic was eliminated, and pedestrians and cyclists have been advised to avoid the area until the work is finished in 2020.

Mike Cloghesy, co-owner of the Mexican restaurant Mesa 14, said the construction has been absolutely devastating to his business.

"It's been a terrible summer for business, obviously, with this construction. Tourists have complained regularly about being able to find us online yet being unable to find us on the street, even if they have the address," said Cloghesy.

His neighbour, Elio Schiavi, owns Restaurant Ferrari, and said he has the same problems.

“For 35 years I'm here paying taxes to keep this street nice and open and after that you do this to me? That's it,” he said. “I put my soul inside here, and after this, I'm pissed off.”

Five merchants have launched the lawsuit, which demands the city and the STM pay owners $2,500 per month for construction, free advertising inside the Guy-Concordia metro station, and improvements to pedestrian access to their stores and restaurants.

Because the lawsuit is before the courts, the STM will not comment.

Construction on the site is taking place from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on weekdays, with work occasionally taking place on the weekend.

Once the ventilation system is finished, the STM will dismantle the original ventilation tower in the area, located a few blocks away on Mountain St.