Public Way

Public 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. Applications, a guide by DBACP regarding this process and additional documents are available at the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Once you have assembled your complete public way use application, please submit it to the 41st 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.

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. This 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.

The Department of Buildings has compiled a detailed document regarding the process of obtaining your permits. 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 filling 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.

Public Way Permit Flowchart

Public Way Use Application