Business News

Notice: Expanded Dining Program and Sidewalk Cafes

Posted on March 1, 2023

If you had an outdoor café through the expanded dining program, please note that those licenses expired on December 31, 2022.

Whether you operate a sidewalk cafe or not, now is the time to check ALL of your licenses and deadlines for renewal.

The expanded dining program allowed cafes to operate year-round, have street closures, take up the whole sidewalk, to extend into parking spaces or lots, or other unconventional set-ups. This program was originally a temporary program to navigate COVID rules. This license is currently unavailable. The City Council is looking at an ordinance that would allow such operations permanent, but it has not been passed as of today.

Sidewalk cafes can operate year-round with a City sidewalk café permit. A brick-and-mortar retail food establishment can extend onto the sidewalk directly in front of the establishment.

  • Current active Sidewalk Cafe permits will expire on the last day of February 2023. Sidewalk Café permits are valid for an annual period of March 1 – the last day of February each year.
  • If the café is set up on the public way, the café must remain operational and ready to serve patrons during operating hours. Café space cannot be used for winter storage of tables, chairs, barriers, or snow.
  • It is the café permittee’s duty to remove the café from the public way when two inches of snow has accumulated (for sidewalks abutting the building), or when any snow has accumulated (for sidewalks abutting the street), until such snow is removed.

Additional Information:

  • Eligibility: 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.
  • How to Apply: Visit the City of Chicago’s Inspections, Permitting & Licensing web portal
  • Permit Duration: from March 1 to the end of February, annually.
  • Permit Fee: Varies by location, starting at $600 per year
  • Restrictions: Sidewalk cafes must be located on the sidewalk only – they cannot extend into the street or empty lots. Sidewalk cafes must have a boundary no higher than 36 inches 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. Full enclosures are not allowed, and canopies/ pergolas must comply with all relevant Department of Building regulations and be permitted separately. A full list of requirements can be found in the Online Sidewalk Café Application and in the Sidewalk Cafe Rules and Regulations.

Watch the sidewalk café webinar for an overview of the permit application process.

Information provided by 32nd Ward office.

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