Obtaining a Sidewalk Cafe Permit

Chicago has implemented temporary changes to the sidewalk cafe permit to make it easier and cheaper to acquire a permit as Chicago begins to cautiously reopen:

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

Learn more about these temporary reforms

Through the BACP-issued sidewalk café permit, brick-and-mortar retail food establishments can extend onto the sidewalk directly in front of or adjacent to the establishment. Cafes are a pillar of Chicago’s food services industry and provide a great opportunity for business owners and customers to reopen safely during the COVID-19 outbreak.


  • Applicants must have a valid Retail Food Establishment license.
  • Applicants intending to serve liquor at a Sidewalk Cafe must have a valid Liquor license pursuant to Chapter 4-60 of the Municipal Code of the City of Chicago.
  • Sidewalk cafes must be located on the sidewalk only- they cannot extend into the street or empty lots.
  • Sidewalk cafes must have a boundary that fully encloses the permitted area and separates the area from the remainder of the public way, with the exception of the entrance.
  • Sidewalk cafes must be positioned to allow for a 6-feet clearance for pedestrians on the sidewalk.
  • A full list of requirements can be found in the Sidewalk Café Application.

Additional Guidance due to COVID-19 under Phase Three of the Protecting Chicago reopening framework:

  • Tables must be spaced 6 feet apart
  • Limit dining to no more than 6 people per table
  • Limit gatherings to no more than 10 individuals
  • Ensure protective gear is worn by employees and guests (face coverings can be removed while customers are seated and eating)
  • The full guidance for food service can be found here.

How to apply:

  • 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.

During Phase Three of the Protecting Chicago reopening framework, restaurants, coffee shops and bars may reopen under restrictions for outdoor servuce only. In addition to sidewalk cafes, the following options are available for businesses:

  • Outdoor patios
  • Rooftops
  • Rooms with retractable roofs
  • Indoor spaces where 50% or more of a wall can be removed via the opening of windows, doors, or panels, provided that dining tables are within 8-ft from such openings
  • Expanded Outdoor Dining Permits
    • Applications are accepted from Chambers of Commerce, SSA, Business Associations or by 3 or more establishments applying together.
    • Applications and more information are available here

Learn more about the Outdoor Dining and Drinking Options


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