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 will run 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.

Application Process

An application must first be submitted to the 32nd 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 usually mailed to businesses in January. Any new applicants should apply immediately.

Neighborhood Group Approval

In certain areas of the ward, neighborhood groups have requested that their membership review new or modified sidewalk cafes. In such cases, a business will have to obtain the neighborhood group’s approval prior to receiving the Alderman’s signature on their application. The 32nd Ward office will notify those applicants needing to seek approval from their neighborhood group.


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.

Things to Remember

  • Six feet of clearance must always be left for pedestrians to pass on the sidewalk.
  • Fifty percent of the perimeter of the cafe needs to be covered in live plants and flowers.
  • BYOB is not allowed at sidewalk cafes.
  • The perimeter of the cafe must include all greenery and accessories, such as umbrellas and busing tables.
  • Businesses may not pave over the parkway or cover any green space for their sidewalk cafe.
  • Businesses can only operate their cafe once they receive their Sidewalk Cafe Permit.
  • A copy of the Sidewalk Cafe Permit must be posted in the window of the business at all times.
  • Everything related to the sidewalk cafe must be removed from the public way by December 2nd.
  • Once an ordinance is submitted to council, you are required to pay the permitting fee, even if you choose not to put your cafe up.
  • Five percent of cafe tables must be designated as accessible by disabled individual.
  • There may be only one entrance per cafe area.
  • All entrance width measurements must be shown on the plan, and entrances have to be at least three feet and no more than five feet wide.
  • Insurance should be submitted with the application and the certificate dates must encompass the entire duration of the permit

Once approved by our office, your application must be submitted to:

City of Chicago
Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection
Small Business Center – Public Way Use Unit, City Hall, R 800
121 North LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois 60602

We encourage you to contact the 32nd Ward office if you have any questions regarding sidewalk cafes.

Please review your application packet for more details on these requirements.

Links & Files

Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection – Public Way Use Information

Sidewalk Permit Application