Opening a business that requires a liquor license can be a rewarding endeavor. The City of Chicago is committed to assisting you through the process and helping you succeed. Obtaining a liquor license is a comprehensive process that involves both community input and facilities inspections. Whether you are looking to start a grocery store, restaurant, bar, nightclub, or are ready to buy or expand a business, this information will provide you with the basics you need to get started and help you make the right decisions.

The first step in applying for a liquor license is to meet with a BACP business consultant to determine what type of license is required and if there are any restrictions based on your business location. The consultant will guide you through the entire application process. You can make an appointment online or by calling 312.74.GOBIZ/ 312.744.6249.

Overview of the Liquor Licensing Process

The liquor license process is thorough to ensure that only responsible business owners are granted the privilege of obtaining a liquor license. Applicants are required to provide detailed information on ownership and business finances. Establishments must also undergo and pass inspections from several city departments, including the Departments of Health, Fire and Buildings.

Neighborhood sentiment is also taken into consideration; each legal registered voter within 250 feet of a proposed liquor license establishment is notified when an application is filed.

In some areas of the City it may not be possible to obtain a liquor license due to restrictions such as “dry precincts” or moratorium areas that prohibit the issuance of additional packaged goods and consumption on premises licenses. It is also important to note that liquor licenses can not be issued to an establishment within 100 ft. of a school, church, hospital, home for the aged, or library.

Whether you are starting a new business, interested in buying a business, or making changes to your existing business, your success is dependent on doing the proper research prior to making any commitments.

The City has developed a customer-oriented case management approach to guide applicants through the application process. A case manager works closely with applicants in filing applications and makes sure they understand all of the responsibilities of a licensed liquor establishment in the City of Chicago. Once an application has been paid for, the City is committed to making a decision on license issuance within 90 days.

For ordinance reference please see The Chicago Municipal Code, Chapters 4-60.