Most businesses are required to a hold business license from the City of Chicago and/or the State of Illinois. Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection provides a list of businesses that might be exempt. You can apply for a City license online or visiting room 800 of City Hall (121 N. LaSalle Street) and speaking with a consultant.

Common Business License Types

City of Chicago Business License Guide

Illinois Licensed Professions not requiring City of Chicago Business License

Limited Business License

This license is required for businesses that engage in general sales, provide a service, 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.

Daycare

A license is required to operate any establishment where three or more children are cared for by someone other than their parent or guardian. This includes home day cares as well. For those who are scouting locations for this business activity, please keep in mind that there are parking and pick-up/drop-off requirements imposed by the Department of Zoning. See City webpage on Day Care Centers.

Children Activities Facility

–> Factsheet

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.

Mobile Food (Truck) Dispenser License

–> Factsheet

Home Occupation

A license is required for anyone who is self-employed or operates a business from their home.

—> Fachsheet

Bed & Breakfasts, Vacation Rental, Hotel & SRO

–> Accommodation Services Factsheet
–> Bed & Breakfast Ordinance
–> Vacation Rental Requirements & Factsheet
–> Investigation/Complaint Form

Dog Friendly Area

This is a supplemental license for any business with a retail food license that would like to allow dogs into their sidewalk cafes or outdoor patios.

Retail Food License

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

Itinerant Merchant License

–> Factsheet Application

Street Performer License

–> Factsheet

Amusement/Entertainment Related: PPA, PAV and Indoor Special Event Licenses

A Public Place of Amusement or PPA License is required for many types of businesses or non-profits 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 for amusements, if your venue has a capacity of over 99 people, you are required to hold a PPA. Performing Arts Venue or PAV license can be used by smaller theaters. Indoor Special Event Case A & B are also explained in this factsheet on Licensing for Entertainment, Performing Arts & Theater.

Tobacco Dealers and Licenses

—> Tobacco Dealers

—> Tobacco Licensing in Chicago

Liquor Licenses: Tavern, Package Goods, Incidental and Outdoor Patio

For description of each license see this City webpage. Liquor licensure is regulated by the Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection, and the Local Liquor Control Commission. As part of the application process, businesses will often be required to obtain the alderman’s approval. In the 47th Ward, 47th Ward Quality of Life Committee vets new liquor license applications. As part of the approval process, local community groups (like block clubs and chambers of commerce) are sent information on the applications and asked for feedback. Typical community concerns brought up with new drinking establishments are noise, littering, and other nuisance and criminal activities. Potential licensees should do everything to proactively address these concerns.

Chicago’s Quick Guide to Liquor Licensing

If you have any questions about this process, please contact Jim Poole in the 47th Ward Office at 773-549-4462 or jim@chicago47.org.

Be mindful that some areas have moratoria that prohibit the issuance or transfer of tavern or packaged goods licenses. Please consult this City of Chicago webpage to find if you are applying in one of those areas.

Those seeking new licenses need to complete this questionnaire and return it to Jim at jim@chicago47.org. At that time, it will be distributed to the Quality of Life Committee for consideration. You will be notified of needed next steps once the committee has the opportunity to review your questionnaire.

Those seeking to lift a moratorium for an existing business for sale/transfer need to complete this questionnaire and return it to Jim at jim@chicago47.org. At that time, it will be distributed to the Quality of Life Committee for consideration. You will be notified of needed next steps once the committee has the opportunity to review your questionnaire.

There are some areas of the city that have been “voted dry” or have a moratorium on liquor licenses. Please contact the 47th Ward office if you believe your proposed business may be in one of these areas.

Sidewalk Café Permit (renewed annual)

The Sidewalk Cafe Program allows a business with a Retail Food Establishment License to serve food outside on the public parkway/sidewalk area adjacent to their restaurant from March 1 to December 1. Permits must be renewed each year.

Process. An application (new or renewals) must first be submitted to the 47th Ward office for approval and signature–see www.Chicago47.org/forms. New applications are subject to a community review (taking about one to two weeks). After obtaining the aldermanic signature, the restaurateur must deliver the complete application to the Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection (BACP) in room 800 of City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle Street (we encourage these applications to be delivered be hand so there is no lost mail issue). Once BACP reviews the application and an ordinance is prepared for the next City Council (submit the application at least a few days before the City Council date). As any ordinance must go through two City Councils (first time is the introduction and the second time is the approval) the applicant should allow about two months before the sidewalk cafe permit is available. To obtain the permit after the second City Council the applicant can bring a check to BACP (room 800) and then pick up the permit (BACP phone # is 312-744-6240).