Saint John business owners who have signs and sandwich boards on street right-of-ways and city property will have to remove them by Friday at noon.

But uptown businesses have been granted a temporary exemption after council faced a backlash over plans to start enforcing the city's signage bylaw.

"City planning to prohibit sandwich board signs on sidewalks uptown. This is wrong, wrong, wrong," real estate agent Bob McVicar posted on Twitter.

"Especially if we want to help businesses survive on streets/ends of streets that are not currently well trafficked," tweeted Anne McShane, owner of The Feel Good Store on Germain Street.

Council passed a supporting motion to enforce the signage bylaw on July 29, following complaints from people bothered by clusters of directional signs placed by real estate agents.

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Dollar stores, restaurants and Loyalist House are among those using sandwich boards to advertise in uptown Saint John. (Connell Smith/CBC)

When the city issued a public notice on Monday, warning people to remove the signs, council members received several complaints from uptown merchants.

'Worry not'

In the end, council directed city staff to prioritize enforcement outside of the uptown area and a three-member committee will further study the issue.

"Worry not," tweeted Saint John Mayor Mel Norton.

"Any future bylaw needs to include flexibility to have sandwich board signs — especially uptown."

Coun. Ray Strowbridge said he believes the bylaw goes too far and should not be enforced anywhere.

"For me, I don't like it at all," he said.

"When I see cities with signs, I see a city that's alive. It's vibrant and there's things happening, that's why there's signs because whether it's go here and buy this, or go to our event over here, it's a city that's alive, it's working, people are doing things. That's a city."

Any signs left on street right-of-ways or city property outside the uptown area after Friday at noon will be removed by city works crews and taken to 175 Rothesay Ave. Owners will have to pay $40 to retrieve their signs.