Updated December 17, 2020 


Extension of Sidewalk Café Permit Expiration Date and Extension of Reforms

  • All current Sidewalk Café Permits will be considered active through May 31, 2021 and businesses with a Sidewalk Café Permit can operate their current Sidewalk Cafes until that date without renewing. Additionally, all Sidewalk Café Permits issued for the 2021 season will benefit from the temporary reforms implemented earlier this year: permit fee reduction of 75%, the ability to extend in front of neighboring property, and an expedited permit issuance process. Scroll down for more information on Sidewalk Cafes and Extended Outdoor Dining.
  • Read the Industry Notice
  • Learn more about the Sidewalk Café Permit
  • For Sidewalk Café Permit questions, email publicwayuse@cityofchicago.org.

Extension of Expanded Outdoor Dining Program

  • The Expanded Outdoor Dining Program, through which bars and restaurants can operate outside on private property or closed streets, has been extended to last through the end of 2021. Businesses that are interested in extending their permit past the end of 2020 must submit a request including the DOT number of their Permit and submit insurance covering the extended dates. Additionally, businesses that are operating their Expanded Outdoor Dining area during winter months need to submit an updated permit plan that includes any winterization plans and equipment.
  • Questions and required documents can be submitted to SEPermits@cityofchicago.org.
  • Learn more about the Expanded Outdoor Dining Program


Fall and Winter Outdoor Dining Guidance

Chicago is committed to ensuring that bars and restaurants can operate outdoors safely and successfully during the fall and winter months. Please see below for up-to-date guidance for safe outdoor service.

Outdoor Operations

All outdoor service areas must operate under an Outdoor Patio License, a Sidewalk Café Permit or an Expanded Outdoor Dining Permit:


Temporary outdoor structures, including tents, are allowed on private property or the public way under the following regulations:

  • Temporary outdoor structures that hold multiple parties must have at least 50% of the sides open to allow air flow
    • Outdoor structures with more than 50% of the sides closed are allowed, but will be treated as indoor spaces and must follow the corresponding capacity restrictions (40%/50 people max for restaurants, 25%/50 people max for taverns)
  • Enclosed structures, such as plastic domes, may be used for individual parties and must have adequate ventilation to allow for air circulation
  • All temporary outdoor structures covering more than 400 square feet must obtain a Department of Buildings (DOB)-issued permit. Permits are typically issued for 60 days but will now be issued for 180 days.
  • Temporary structures must be weighted, anchored or secured to the ground, but cannot be anchored with any method that requires screwing, cutting or drilling into the public way (i.e. on streets or sidewalks)
  • All structural materials should have a fire-resistant certification or flame certification showing material is fire-rated or noncombustible
  • Use of tents and other temporary structures may be deemed unsafe and prohibited during severe weather events (wind, snow, etc.)
  • All structures must be ADA compliant

Heating Devices

Heating Devices are allowed but must meet the following operational regulations:

  • Electrically-powered heating devices are permitted; they must be installed by a licensed electrical contractor, who will obtain an electrical permit. Electrical heating equipment must be marked “UL listed” or “UL classified”
  • Natural gas heaters or any devices fueled with propane are only allowed in open, uncovered areas
  • Operators should abide by any recommended safety guidelines issued with a specific product (see the product’s operations manual)
  • Heating equipment should be unplugged or disconnected for overnight storage, andemployees should be trained in proper installation of fuel tanks and in detecting leaks
  • Establishment should maintain clearance between heaters and all other objects, including tent sides. Required minimum clearance distance depends on the heating device; three feet is recommended.

Safety Considerations

Follow these additional safety considerations to ensure responsible operations.

  • Outdoor spaces with heating devices must keep devices away from combustible materials, such as tents, at all times
  • Enclosed areas with heating devices must have clearly marked entrances and exits
  • Businesses must have sufficient fire extinguishers to cover indoor and outdoor spaces
  • Restaurants will need inclement weather plans in writing and trained to staff to prevent any injuries in storms, snow, or other unsafe situations
  • If plastic domes or other enclosed spaces are used, establishment must post placards advising about increased risk of transmission within an enclosed space

Additional Information: