Sidewalk Cafe COVID-19 Reforms

Temporary Reforms to Sidewalk Café Permits

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chicago City Council passed multiple ordinance introduced by Mayor Lightfoot that make it easier and cheaper to acquire sidewalk café permits through the end of the 2021 Sidewalk Cafe season.

The new legislation institutes temporary reforms to the sidewalk café permit to reduce costs, expand the opportunity for revenue and expedite the process to obtain a permit:

  1. 75 percent permit fee reduction
  2. Ability to extend sidewalk cafes in front of a neighboring property
  3. Expedited permit issuance process

Frequently Asked Questions related to these reforms:

Fee Reduction

How large is the fee reduction?

  • All sidewalk café permit fees have been reduced by 75%

How do I calculate my fee?

  • Fees are calculated by BACP and are determined based on the size of the sidewalk café and land values. The minimum cost for a sidewalk cafe has been reduced from $600 to $150

Extended Sidewalk Cafes

How do I apply for an Extended Sidewalk Café?

  • If you have an existing sidewalk café, you must submit a new application to extend into the public way in front of your neighboring property.
  • This should follow the standard process as outlined below, but note the need for the following:
    • Extended Café application needs to be reviewed by the local alderman 
    • Copies of the old and new site plan
    • Photos of the proposed site
    • Certificate of Insurance showing coverage of the expanded café footprint

How far can cafes extend?

  • Sidewalk cafes can extend into the public way in front of one neighboring property.

What requirements must be followed?

  • The extended sidewalk café must continue uninterrupted and cannot block the window of an occupied neighboring property, nor any door.
    • If the neighboring property is vacant, an extended café can block neighboring windows, but only while that property remains vacant.
  • Extended sidewalk cafes cannot extend into the public way in front of a neighboring Retail Food Establishment or Retail Liquor Establishment.
  • Extended sidewalk cafes are limited to a single neighboring property.
  • Insurance coverage must be submitted to include the entire footprint of the extended sidewalk café.

What if my neighboring property is vacant?

  • Under the proposal, if your neighboring property is vacant, a sidewalk café on the property side of the sidewalk can extend in front of windows to the property. All other requirements must be followed.

Do applicants need to notify their neighbor before extending in front of their property?

  • If an extended sidewalk café is on the building side of the sidewalk, the applicant must notify the owner and occupant of the neighboring property in writing and include that notice in their permit application. No such notice is required if the sidewalk café is on the curb side of the sidewalk.
  • Applicants would not need to receive permission from your neighbor in order to extend into the public way in front of their property.

I already have a sidewalk café permit. Does a new application need to be submitted?

  • Under the ordinance, if you have an existing sidewalk café, you must submit a new application to extend into the public way in front of your neighboring property.
  • This should follow the standard process as outlined below.

Expedited Permit Issuance

How will sidewalk café permit issuance be expedited?

  • Sidewalk café permits can be issued without needing to be introduced as an ordinance to City Council.
  • Applicants should still submit their application initially through the new portal.
  • This will remove up to 30 days from the permit issuance timeline.

How long will it take to receive a permit?

  • After completed applications are submitted to BACP, the department can process applications within 5-10 days.

How do I apply for a Sidewalk Café Permit?

  • Beginning April, 2021, BACP has launched a new web portal that now processes all Public Way Use transactions, including the issuance and renewal of Sidewalk Cafe Permits. Read the Industry Notice for more information. 
  • Applicants will need to create an account in the new portal system and submit the full application through the portal. Additional information, including required materials, can be found on the portal - APPLY TODAY
  • The Certificate of Insurance must be uploaded to the portal before BACP can approve the application – the full list of required materials can be found on the portal
  • After approving applications, applicants will be directed to pay via the portal.
  • Upon payment, BACP will notify the applicant electronically that the permit has been approved. The permit itself and the approved plan must be printed and displayed on the exterior wall or window of the main entrance of the establishment during all hours of operation.
  • Questions can be submitted to BACP at


Learn more about the Sidewalk Cafe Permit


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