July 21, 2021 | Posted by Heather Saenger

Before you open your own business, make sure you have all necessary business licenses first. Need help determining what license(s) you need and how to get one? Read below and reach out to us for help!

Do I need a business license in Chicago, and how do I get one? These are two of the most asked questions received by the Uptown Business Center, and arguably the most important. Long answer short – yes, you probably need a license. The Uptown Business Center is here to help you determine what kind of business license(s) you need, what to prepare before applying for a license, and how to apply for one. In this post, we will tackle these questions one by one. Reach out to Heather Saenger, Uptown Business Center Manager, at [email protected] or 773-878-1064 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation.

Do I need a business license?

Probably! A Chicago Business License is required to conduct, engage in, maintain, operate, or manage any business in the City of Chicago. Click here to view business sectors and activities that require a license.

There are business activities regulated by the State of Illinois that may be exempt from City licensing. Click here to see occupations / professions and a sampling of business activities, which are licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR), that do not require a Chicago Business License. However, it is important to know that business activities offered in the establishment/ facility, which are not covered by the State of Illinois license, may require Chicago Business License. For example, if you open a salon/barber shop that offers hairstyling and sells retail hair/beauty products, you will need individual IDFPR licenses for your stylists, in addition to a Chicago business license for retail sales.

What do I need to prepare in advance to apply for a Chicago Business License?

Before you begin a license application, please be sure to have the following items completed. It is highly recommended to utilize a small business attorney to assist you in these processes. Please contact the Uptown Business Center with any questions or referrals needs.

  1. Determine your business entity. For example, a sole proprietorship, LLC, PLLC, S-Corp or C-Corp. For more information and assistance, please contact us. Also, please watch this helpful BACP Webinar on Choosing the Right Legal Entity.
  2. Obtain an Assumed Name Certificate from the Cook County Clerk’s office (an assumed name is a name other than your own) at cookcountyclerkil.gov.
  3. If you plan to do business as a legal business entity in Illinois, regardless of if your business is based in Illinois or not, register your business with the Illinois Secretary of State at cyberdriveillinois.com. You will be provided with a State of Illinois File Number, which is a Chicago Business License requirement.
  4. Register Your Business by obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN), aka a Federal Tax ID Number. Businesses are required to obtain an EIN to file and pay any federal tax obligation.
  5. Obtain an Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) Account ID Number. You must register with IDOR if you conduct business in Illinois, or with Illinois customers. You can apply online here.

How do I apply for a business license?

There are 2 ways you can apply for a Chicago business license, which is issued through the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP).

  1. RECOMMENDED: Go to chicagobusinessdirect.org, create an account, and apply online. *Applicants must be the business owner, and not a third party such as an attorney or consultant.
  2. In-person at the Small Business Center located at 121 N LaSalle, Room 800, Chicago, IL. Walk-ins are available, but appointments are encouraged. Call 312-74-GOBIZ (744-6249) or go to http://www.chicago.gov/bacp > Licensing/Small Business Center Icon > Schedule an Appointment.
  3. Need help? Contact the Uptown Business Center at 773-878-1064 or [email protected].

We hope you find this information helpful! A reminder, the Uptown Business Center is one of eight regional participants in the Chicago Business Center program, designed to assist new and existing small businesses in the areas of licensing, permitting, financial assistance, and sector-specific support. This program is offered in partnership with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) and helps to fill the current gap of local business resources, particularly for entrepreneurs in historically underserved locations and populations.