Public Right of Way

The City’s streets, sidewalks and parkways are part of the public way. Any business or property owner occupying this space is required to have a Public Way Use Permit. Typical public way encroachments include canopies and signs that identify businesses. Permits are issued by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (DBACP) and are valid for five years. Each permit is issued specifically for a particular use. There is also an annual charge per public way use. Click here for a guide by DBACP regarding this process and click here for applications and more information.

Information specifically related to Sidewalk Cafe Permits is available here.

Once you have assembled your complete public way use application, please submit it to the 43rd Ward office for approval. Contact us at any time with questions regarding the application process. You may contact DBACP with any questions as well at (312) 744-6249.

We will gladly submit your application for you, or you may mail it or submit it to the Business Assistance Center in person at City Hall, 121 N LaSalle, Room 800.

The process for issuing a Public Way Use Permit takes approximately 90 days as it requires passage of an ordinance by the Chicago City Council. The flow chart below outlines the various steps of review from the moment you submit your application to the point when the permit is issued.

Building Permits

Any structure that is in the public way requires both a Public Way Use Permit and a building permit. The building permit authorizes the installation of the structure, while the Public Way Use Permit allows that structure to infringe upon the public way. If you do not hold a valid building permit for your sign or canopy, you must have a licensed contractor apply for one after submitting your public way use permit and  receiving your application/permit number.  A building permit for a sign, canopy or other structure requires that you hire a company that is licensed with the City of Chicago.  If there is no corresponding building permit on file, you will not receive your public way use permit.

New Public Way Use Permits

If the sign or canopy has not been installed yet, you will need to apply for a building permit and a Public Way Use Permit. The Department of Buildings requires that you hold a valid Public Way Use Permit prior to issuing any building permits related to this installation. As this may delay you from receiving your building permit and installing, you should file your public way use application as soon as you know the dimensions of the public way use. If you are a new business filing for a business license, you may submit your application as soon as you receive your account number, with that number included on the form. Once you file your Public Way Use Permit application, you will be given an application/permit number, which must then be presented with the building permit application in order to link up the two permits.  The Public Way User Permit will also not be issued if there is no building permit on file.  Please let us know if you are applying in conjunction with a building permit.

If you have an existing structure installed in the public way, you may apply for a Public Way Use Permit without penalty, simply indicate that this is an existing use on the application. However, if the structure was installed without a building permit, you must hire a company licensed with the City of Chicago to obtain the proper building permits.

Renewal Public Way Use Permits

The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection automatically mails renewal forms prior to the expiration of your Public Way Permit. To avoid paying a late fee, please submit all the documents to our office in a timely manner. In addition to the renewal documents, you must submit a picture and a dimensioned sketch. If the dimensions shown on your renewal form are incomplete or incorrect, you will need to provide those measurements. The department may not accept your application unless all information is provided in full, even if it had not been in the past.


If you do not have a valid Public Way Use Permit for structures in the public way at your property, the DBACP may issue a Removal Order, which gives you 90 days to either come into compliance or remove the structure. If you wish to maintain your public way use, you should file you application immediately. In the case that DBACP does not receive a complete application within 90 days, you may be issued an Administrative Hearings summons and holds will be placed on your business account.

If you do not have a building permit for your sign or canopy, upon inspection, the Department of Buildings will immediately issue a Notice of Violation and an Administrative Hearings summons. You will be required to appear at an Administrative Hearing, come into compliance by obtaining both permits, commit to a re-inspection and pay a fine of at least $250.


After the ordinance authorizing your public way use has been passed by the Chicago City Council, you will receive further instructions from DBACP. One of the additional documents required is an insurance certificate indemnifying the City in the amount of one million dollars. For businesses, this is similar to the insurance certificate you had to provide along with your business license application.


Failure to renew or apply for a Public Way Use Permit when required may put holds on your business license. Other holds on your license may also prevent you from being issued your Public Way Use Permit. Please contact DBACP at (312) 744-6249 to make sure you are current on any requirements and payments.

Unlicensed Entities

Certain applicants such as home owners, condominium associations, not-for-profits or businesses not required to hold a City of Chicago business license will need to set up an account with DBACP. If you are applying for a Public Way Use Permit and do not have a City of Chicago business license, you will need to fill out the Business Information Sheet, available here, in order to set up an account with the department. This form should be submitted along with your public way use application.