Most businesses are required to hold business licenses from the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois. There are some businesses that are exempt from city licensing such as athletic trainers, dentists, and interior designers. However, you may still be liable to pay city taxes. Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection provides a list of businesses that might be exempt. You can find it here.
If you do need a business license, you should start by contacting the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection at 312-744-6249 and setting up an appointment with a business consultant. Appointments can also be scheduled online. The Guide to Starting a Business brochure should also provide you with some basic information.
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 46th 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 Business License Types
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Click here for more information.
This license is required to serve or sell food to the public. This will apply to bakeries, grocery stores, restaurants and delivery food services.
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 for amusements, 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 by contacting our office.
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.
There are some areas of the city that have been “voted dry” or have a moratorium on liquor licenses. Please contact the 46th Ward office if you believe your proposed business may be in one of these areas.
The application process for liquor licensing includes a public comment process. Whereas, Alderman Cappleman cannot approve or deny a liquor license, he 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 weary of 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.
A complete list of licenses is available here.
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.
Liquor License Application Process
Public Place of Amusement License Guide
Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Homepage
Zoning Map (Works best in IE)