Sidewalk Cafe COVID-19 Reforms

Temporary Reforms to Sidewalk Café Permits

On Wednesday, June 17, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance introduced by Mayor Lightfoot that will make it easier and cheaper to acquire sidewalk café permits.

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

What if I have already paid for my sidewalk café permit? Will I get a refund?

  • Sidewalk café operators that have already paid for their permits will be sent a refund.

Will I receive the refund automatically?

  • With City Council's passage of BACP's sidewalk cafe permit relief ordinance on June 17, 2020, the Department has already initiated the process with the Department of Finance for issuing refund checks to those restaurants that have already paid for their 2020 sidewalk cafe permit. These permittees will receive a check from the City in the amount of 75% of what they already paid for their cafe permit. No additional paperwork or refund application is necessary from the businesses that have already paid for their 2020 sidewalk cafe permit. 

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 (see page 7 of the application)
    • 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 proposed 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 to the local alderman for review and signature.
  • 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? 

  • The full application can be found here.
  • Complete the application, including the required materials, and submit your applications to the local alderman for review.
  • After the alderman’s review, submit a completed application to BACP via email to publicwayuse@cityofchicago.org.
  • BACP will review the application for completeness. It no longer needs to be submitted to City Council.
  • After approving applications, BACP will issue an invoice to the applicant. Payment can be made online here.
  • Upon payment and receipt of a current Certificate of Insurance, BACP will mail the sidewalk café permit to the applicant premises. The permit itself and the approved plan must be displayed on the exterior wall or window of the main entrance of the establishment during all hours of operation.

 

Learn more about the Sidewalk Cafe Permit

 

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