Do You Need a City License for Your Business?

Most businesses are required to hold business licenses from the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois. Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection provides a list of businesses that might be exempt. Click here to view the list.

If you do need a license, contact the Small Business Center (SBC) within the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) and set up an appointment with a business consultant.  The SBC offers free consultation and is a “one-stop shop” for business licensing with several resources available, including site selector, licensing requirements, zoning issues, building permits, inspections etc.

Their consultants will also inform you if there are any conflicts between the zoning designation, local moratoriums and other restrictions and the type of business license you need.   It will also help you get clarifications on any other permits you may need for your business plan and how to proceed with the application process.

The Small Business Center is located at City Hall (121 North LaSalle Street) – Room 800.

Phone number: 312.744.6249

Website

Appointments can also be scheduled online.

What type of license do you need?

The type of business license required by the City of Chicago depends on the business activity. Below is a brief description of common licenses within the 43rd Ward. For a complete list of licenses, you can visit the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection website. Please note that in some cases, you will need more than one type of license.

Common 43rd Ward Business License Types

Daycare

This includes home day care and day care provided in commercial spaces. There are parking and pick-up/drop-off requirements imposed by the Department of Zoning.

Animal Care Facility Licenses

This license allows a business to board, train and provide day care services for animals. It also allows the grooming, buying and selling of cats and dogs.

Home Occupation

A license is required for anyone who is self-employed or operates a business from their home. This license, however, is not required for people who work from home or for an employer who maintains a separate place of business. There are particular occupations that the city prohibits from being operated in residences. Click here for regulations regarding home occupations.

Retail Food

This license is required to serve or sell food to the public. This will apply to bakeries, grocery stores, restaurants and delivery food services.

Packaged Goods 

Obtain this license to sell alcoholic beverages in a can or bottle.

Restaurant

There are many licenses that you may need, depending on the specifics of your operation, including:

  • retail food
  • catering
  • banquet hall
  • shared kitchen

Public Place of Amusement

A PPA license is required for any business that produces, presents or conducts any type of amusement. This would include: live theater, child activity centers, music venues, facilities rented for parties and places that have DJ’s. Whether or not you charge admission, if your venue has a capacity of over 99 people, you are required to hold a PPA. For a complete list of activities requiring a PPA license, please refer to the Chicago Municipal Code.

Please note that a PPA license has a number of restrictions and there is a requirement for community notice and input. You can find out more about this license here.

Liquor Licenses

These licenses are required for any business that serves or sells alcoholic beverages. The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection is charged with overseeing the application process and issuing licenses. Please view Chicago’s Quick Guide for Liquor Licensing for more information.

There are some areas of the city that have been “voted dry” or have a moratorium on liquor licenses. Please contact the SBC if you believe your proposed business may be in one of these areas.

The application process for liquor licensing includes a public comment process. Alderman Smith cannot approve or deny a liquor license. However, she does strongly recommend that anyone seeking a liquor license reaches out to the neighborhood group in which the proposed business is located. If there is enough opposition to a liquor license application, the Alderman may intercede.

Residents are rightfully concerned about new businesses with liquor licenses opening in their area. Certain areas of the ward with drinking establishments exhibit increased littering, noise and criminal activity. Potential licensees should do everything to address these concerns with nearby residents and their community group.

Types of liquor licenses include:

  • liquor, incidental sales – consumption on premises
  • liquor, outdoor patio –  consumption on premises, serving of liquor outdoors on private property
  • liquor, tavern – if over 50% of sales comes from the service of alcoholic beverages
  • packaged goods –  license to sell unopened alcoholic beverages.  This license does not allow for the consumption of the purchased item on site.

Zoning

Whether a business activity is permitted in a certain area depends on the zoning of your property. You can check your zoning here.  If you need help understanding your zoning, please contact us or the SBC.

Limited Business License

Businesses that engage in general sales, provide a service, and engage in office operations or businesses that do not fall under another license category and are not exempt from the city’s license requirement. Examples include, clothing stores, flower shops, art dealers, and garden centers.

Public Way Permit

Applies to any permanent features that project beyond the property line on, under, or above the public way.   Some examples are signs, awnings, poles, banners, flags, cameras, street furniture, vaults, door swing, planters, irrigation systems, etc.

The Public Way Use permit application requires aldermanic sign off before being submitted to BACP’s Public Way Use division.  Please email us the completed form for signature and allow for about two weeks for processing of new applications.

After submitting your application, BACP reviews and creates an ordinance that needs to be introduced and voted by the Committee on Transportation and Public Way as well as City Council.  As such, please account for about 30-50 days for processing time.

If your property is located within a Landmark District, the processing time may be longer, and restrictions in regards to size, illumination and materials apply.  We recommend you contact us as early as possible in the process to avoid any delays.

Sidewalk Cafes

The  Sidewalk Cafe permit application requires aldermanic sign off before being submitted to BACP.  Alderman Smith encourages sidewalk cafes but requires review of all new proposed cafes or amendments to existing layouts, occupancy and hours of operation by local community groups.  Please email us the completed form for signature and allow for about two weeks for processing of new applications or amendments.

After submitting your application, BACP reviews and creates an ordinance that needs to be introduced and voted by the Committee on Transportation and Public Way as well as City Council.  As such, please account for about 30-50 days for processing time.

Please fill out the sidewalk cafe application as soon as possible so that the process can be completed in a timely manner.

Other Links

Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Homepage

Zoning Map (Works best in Internet Explorer)

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