City Council granted initial approval to the rules during a meeting Tuesday night, but a second vote is needed. That could come in November.
Sandwich boards are currently not allowed in the downtown area, except those which were in place before 2004, when rules changed to ban the signs. New businesses are allowed to display the boards during their first six months of operation.
The intent, city staff has said, is to create clear-cut rules for merchants so the influx of signs that have cropped up recently meet standards.
Charles Aimar of Rossignol's continues to worry the restrictions, which now specifically include pedestal signs like the ones outside his store, will hurt businesses.
"The reason you have these portable signs is to catch people who don't look in the windows," he said. "And the reason we're on Bay Street, paying these rents, is to get people inside buying things and so we can pay the bills."
The most recently proposed rules continue to require businesses to apply for a permit to display a sign, but charge no permit fee. Businesses with multiple entrances on different streets or on a street and fronting Henry C. Chamber Waterfront Park may have a sign at each of those entrances.
Signs must be made of materials allowed in the historic district -- which does not include plastic -- and cannot be lit or have things stapled, taped or otherwise added.
They can only be displayed when the business is open.
Easel and pedestal signs, which have one or two legs, can be no taller than six feet and the sign itself can be no bigger than 3.5 square feet. Sidewalk sandwich boards can be 3.5 feet tall and no bigger than six square feet.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.