Venue Licensing Toolkit

The Venue Licensing Toolkit is a new resource for entrepreneurs and organizations interested in presenting music, theater or other entertainment at permanent venues such as cultural centers, theaters, clubs, bars, or movie theaters. Using flowcharts, checklists, quick links to important documents and frequently-asked-questions, the step-by-step roadmap gathers the information from multiple City agencies in one centralized and transparent location and explains the application process to become either a Public Place of Amusement (PPA) or a Performing Arts Venue (PAV).


License Types:

A Public Place of Amusement (PPA) License is required to produce, present or conduct any type of amusement. Venues charging an admission fee or minimum purchase requirement for any type of entertainment or amusement require a PPA. Venues with a capacity of 100 or more people that offer any entertainment or amusement require a PPA, regardless of whether an admission fee or minimum purchase requirement is charged. In addition, a PPA is required if the venue is rented out or used by other entities for holding events or other amusements.

The Performing Arts Venue (PAV) License – a special class of PPA license – was created to accommodate Chicago’s smaller theaters. This license is required for any establishment providing live theatrical or other live cultural performances in a venue with an aggregate maximum capacity of 500 of all performance spaces in the building. The aggregate maximum capacity may be up to 1000 (of all assembly spaces) if the theater is incidental to the use of a building that is primarily a church, school or other charitable organization. A PAV license holder cannot provide live music.

Download the following toolkit for more information on the purpose, requirements and application processes for each of these licenses.

Venue Licensing Toolkit (PDF)

Download Venue Licensing Toolkit (PDF)

(Updated May 20, 2016)


The Venue Licensing Toolkit is saved as an Adobe PDF. Adobe Acrobat Reader (free software download) is required to download and save the pdf on your computer.


The Venue Licensing Toolkit is an initiative of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events’ Music Industry Program. The content and format was created in collaboration with the Chicago Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection (BACP) and its Business Licensing, the Chicago Fire Department, the Chicago Department of Buildings (DOB), the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) Food Protection Program, the Department of Planning and Development and its Zoning Ordinance Administration, the Department of Finance (DOF), the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Chicago Police Department.