Signs of Change: Streamlining Chicago’s Sign Permitting Process

In Chicago, small businesses employ nearly half of the city’s workforce. Oftentimes, a small business’s first step when opening for business is to hang a sign or an awning with the business name, letting customers and neighbors know about the new addition to the local economy. Unfortunately, this initial step is slow, costly, and confusing in Chicago. While many businesses are negatively impacted by the onerous regulations associated with displaying a sign in Chicago, it is local establishments and aspiring entrepreneurs that are disproportionately affected by the process. 

Small businesses face many challenges when going through the sign permitting process in Chicago. Displaying any sign requires a Sign Construction Building Permit; only a licensed sign erector can apply for the building permit. A small business owner must pay the sign erector to pursue the permit, even to display the most modest sign in their window. If a sign overhangs the sidewalk, the business also needs a Public Way Use Permit. This permit requires passage by the entire City Council, just like any ordinance, which can take months to obtain.

The city can empower the small business community and encourage the growth of Chicago’s economy by reforming the regulations associated with displaying signs and creating a common-sense, cost-effective process for displaying a sign. Click here to access our proposals, which are intended to start a constructive dialogue about ways to streamline the sign permitting process.

The quickly forming coalition backing these proposals includes:

SBAC, Chicago Leadership Alliance, Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, Lincoln Square – Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, Belmont-Central Chamber of Commerce, and Edgewater Chamber of Commerce


If you haven’t already, please “Like” and share our Signs of Change Facebook page by clicking here.