Traders fear a proposed one-way pedestrian route at Lincoln Christmas Market could spell economic disaster for their businesses.
Last year's event, which attracted 200,000 people over four days, was dogged by complaints that it was too busy.
The City of Lincoln Council has since taken advice from a professor who was involved in crowd control at the royal wedding and the Olympics.
A one-way system has now been devised to run from December 6 to 9 during this year's event, going up The Strait and Steep Hill, around the market and down Spring Hill.
But businesses, who are being consulted on the proposal, say two-way access to The Strait and Steep Hill should remain.
David Hodson, owner of Ian Keat Jewellers, in The Strait, said: "We are all struggling and this one-way system will be the death knell of this street.
"The market is going on uphill so why should we be made to suffer?
"Is the council going to compensate us?"
Neighbour Jason Pick, who runs Modern Classics cafe, said: "We want the route left alone – we are struggling as it is."
Richard Baxter, who runs Goodies Sweet Shop, said: "People won't be buying stuff on their way up to the market and the one-way system means we will not get that trade on the way back down.
"We want access kept both up and down the hill and let people walk where they want to.
"The way things are going, these shops will be turned into student accommodation."
Holly Parker, events officer at the city council, said: "We've taken advice from national crowd control experts when designing the layout of this year's market, including Professor Keith Still, who advised on the Olympics and the royal wedding.
"We've made numerous changes, including fewer stalls in the castle grounds.
"Also we're spreading the stalls around the cathedral, up Newport and down to the bottom of Steep Hill.
"The city council organises and invests in the Lincoln Christmas Market every year because of the fantastic profile and economic boost it gives to our city.
"We have local businesses at the forefront of our mind, and want them to be able to maximise their income from the increase in visitors over the four-day period.
"We need to address the crowd issues and our advisors have put a one way system in place on Steep Hill.
"However, we are now asking for business owners to tell us their preferred option – the option that they think will best serve businesses.
"This way, we can keep visitors safe and happy, and also make the most of the Christmas Market for local businesses.
"I hope businesses will respond to our survey so we can make an informed decision."
This year's market begins at noon on the Thursday, rather than the 4pm start in previous years.
East Midlands Trains is running extra trains in and out of Lincoln on the Friday and Saturday over the market weekend.