Steps in the Liquor License Application Process

The liquor license application process is outlined below. Please note that a Business Consultant will assist and guide you through the application process.

Step 1: Getting Started
You must request an appointment to meet with a Business Consultant.   A pre-scheduled appointment is required for any liquor or amusement license applications.  We are located at:

Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection
121 N. LaSalle St.
City Hall, Room 800
Chicago, IL 60602
312.74.GOBIZ (744.6249)

The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection is open Monday–Friday 8:30 am - 4:30 pm.  You can schedule an appointment by calling 312.74.GOBIZ (744.6249) or request an appointment online. Your appointment will be confirmed via email within one (1) business day from receipt of the original request.

At your first meeting, your Business Consultant  will ask you a series of questions regarding the ownership of your business, what type of business you want to open and the exact location you wish to do business. You should be prepared to answer these questions and provide the information requested in the Business Information Sheet (BIS). Please complete the BIS form and bring it with you to your meeting. During this meeting a Business Consultant will explain the entire application process in detail. You will be given an application and a checklist of required documents that must be submitted within 30 days after you have filed your written license application. This information is also available in this guide and on the city’s website. Please prepare as much of this information as possible and bring it with you to your meeting.

If you are purchasing an existing business with a liquor license, you may need to request a Type III Change of Ownership/Shareholders application.

Step 2: Determine if your business is located in a restricted area
You are strongly encouraged to determine if a liquor license is permitted in a location before investing in any business. There are several different types of restrictions that may prevent you from obtaining a liquor license in the City of Chicago. On your first visit, a business consultant will help determine if your proposed business location is in a restricted area. Precincts that have been voted dry do not permit the sale of any alcohol. Moratorium areas, located throughout the City, also prohibit the issuance of new Tavern, Packaged Goods, Incidental Consumption on Premises, and Club licenses in certain areas in each ward. A liquor license of any type is not permitted within 100 ft. of a school, church, or library (See Also...Liquor License Restrictions and Special Regulations on the left).

Step 3: Complete the Written Application/Zoning Review
To begin the liquor license application process, you are required to complete the written application. You should also be prepared to submit a detailed floor and business site plan to your case manager. The Department of Zoning will review your written application and floor and site plans to determine if liquor sales are allowed at your business location. Your case manager will present your application and floor and site plans to the Department of Zoning on your behalf.

You may review the zoning classification of your proposed business location at http://www.cityofchicago.org/zoning.

Step 4: File the Written Application 

Once you have secured approval from the Department of Zoning, you are permitted to file your application with the Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection (BACP) and pay the required license application fees. The date you pay for your application is known as your application date. You will have 30 days from your application payment date to submit all of the Required Documents.

Once you have paid and filed your written application, your business consultant will provide you a list of all required documents, schedule all required inspections, and prepare all required public notifications, including notice to all legal voters residing within 250 feet of your business location.

Step 5: Task Force Inspections
Liquor license applicants are required to pass inspections from the Departments of Health, Fire and Buildings, plumbing and ventilation. These inspections are also known as “Task Force Inspections.” Your case manager will schedule these inspections at a time convenient for you. A representative of the business must be available at the scheduled time. You should be prepared for an inspection when you file your written application.

Step 6:  Background Check
All liquor license applicants are required to undergo a background check. Your case manager will schedule an appointment background check. During this meeting, each person who owns 5% or more interest in the business will be fingerprinted. The corporate officers, authorized manager, and any other person loaning or giving more than 10% interest in the business will also be fingerprinted. Spouses of owners with a 5% or greater share of the business are required to submit a completed Spousal Affidavit.

BACP will review the financial and business information provided in the application file, and the results of the criminal background check, to determine if the owners/officers of the business are eligible to hold a liquor license. The Illinois Liquor Control Act prohibits the issuance of a liquor license to persons who have been convicted of a felony and some types of misdemeanors.

BACP will also conduct an inspection of your establishment to determine if your business is located within 100 feet of a church, school, library or home of the aged, or library.

Step 7: Public Notifications
Within 5 days of the application file date, the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection is required to notify all of the registered voters residing within 250 ft. of the proposed business location by mail. The notification informs the public that an application for liquor license has been filed. The public has the opportunity to provide comments or submit written objections to the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. The public has 35 days to submit comments and/or written objections. Negative community response may result in the denial of a liquor license. No liquor license will be issued until the public comment period has expired. The public comment period ends 35 days after the application is filed.

The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection is responsible for sending notice to the alderman and the police district commander. The notification informs the alderman and police commander that an application for liquor license has been filed. Finally, the BACP will publish a legal notice in a daily newspaper of general circulation in the city, four times over a two-week period.

Step 8: Submit Required Documents
Once you have filed your written application with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, you will have 30 days in which to submit all applicable Required Documents. Your business consultant will provide a list of required documents.

You will be sent a weekly reminder notice indicating all of the outstanding documents that are required to complete your application. You will receive this notice once per week until the expiration of your 30-day document submission time period.

During this 30-day document submission period, you should be working closely with your case manager to submit all required documents. You are strongly encouraged to submit all required documents as soon as possible, as application fees are not refundable due to failure to meet the 30-day timeline.

Failure to submit all of the required documents within 30 days of your application file date, will suspend further processing of your application. Applicants will have the option to reactivate the application by submitting a $500 reactivation fee. You will have up to six months from your application file date to reactivate your application. If you fail to reactivate your application within 6 months, you will forfeit your license application fee. In order to apply for a liquor license after the 6-month period has lapsed, you must submit a new application and start the process over again. You will not be eligible for a refund of any previously paid application fees.

Step 9: Application Review
Once the entire application and all its contents have been submitted, the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection / Local Liquor Control Commission is required to review the application materials, as well as any community objections, and issue a decision on the license application within a maximum of 60 days from the date you submitted all required documents. A license can be issued as early as 36 days from your application payment date. If you are denied a license you have the right to file an appeal before the License Appeal Commission within 20 days of the denial.

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