The Sidewalk Cafe Program allows a business with a Retail Food Establishment License to serve food outside of their restaurant on City sidewalks. The sidewalk cafe season runs from March 1st to December 1st. Permits are renewable each year and a business cannot set up its cafe without first having a permit in-hand. Pricing for Sidewalk Cafe Permits starts at $600 and depends on cafe area.
An application must first be submitted to the 41st Ward office for approval. It is then reviewed by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, which drafts an ordinance for introduction by the Alderman to the Chicago City Council. Once the ordinance is introduced, the department can issue the permit pending full passage of the ordinance. As City Council meetings occur approximately once a month, the time frame in which your permit is issued, will depend on when you submit your application. Renewal applications are mailed to businesses in January. Any new applicants should apply immediately.
Typically, the week following the introduction of the ordinance permitting the sidewalk cafe, the business will be notified by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.
Business owners will need to provide an insurance certificate indemnifying the City in the amount of one million dollars and sign documents accepting the terms of the Sidewalk Cafe Permit Program before receiving their permit. Please review the new insurance certificate requirements in the application packet.
Other holds on your license may also prevent you from being issued your Sidewalk Cafe Permit. Please contact the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection at (312) 744-6249 to make sure you are current on any requirements and payments.