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Uptown Business Center

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Connect with the Uptown Business Center’s Free Business Services for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses!

The Uptown Business Center (UBC) is managed by Uptown United, and supports new and existing business owners and entrepreneurs within the East-West boundaries of Lake Shore Drive to the Chicago River, and North-South boundaries of Lincoln Park to Rogers Park. Whether you’re in the idea stage of your business or a long-standing business owner, the UBC provides a suite of free business services!  

Sign up for a free UBC Business Consultation today for a wide range of free services including:  

  • Licensing Assistance: choosing and applying for the best license for your business, meeting zoning requirements, securing a liquor license, and more. 
  • Permitting Assistance: applying for and renewing sidewalk cafes, sign permits etc.  
  • Funding Resources: locating traditional and non-traditional financial resources including webinars, connections to local institutions, and the latest local and federal grant/loan information. 
  • Sector-Specific Support: industry events, trainings, webinars, networking opportunities. 
  • Digital Marketing Assistance: digital storytelling, social media planning, content creation, google business profile development, and more.
  • Connecting with your local Chamber of Commerce for additional support in marketing, neighborhood events, networking, and more.   

Consultations are provided virtually, by phone, or in person based on your preference. Learn more about how the UBC can support you by signing up for a free UBC Business Consultation, emailing ubc@exploreuptown.org, or calling 773-878-1064.

It's Time to Apply For/Renew Your Sidewalk Cafe Permits

The City of Chicago sidewalk café season begins on March 1st and ends on February 28th. Permits have a 12 month term and must be applied for each year. In order to maximize your sidewalk café permit, apply or renew now before March 1st!

How do I apply for a sidewalk café permit?
Apply for your permit online on the BACP permit portal. You will need to create an account in the system if you don't already have one. You must fully complete the sidewalk cafe application in order for BACP to approve your application. Once approved, you will be directed to pay for the permit in the portal. Click here for a visual step by step overview. Apply now.

Required Documentation:

  • General Liability Insurance & Policy Endorsement Page
  • Business License Upload
  • Photograph of Proposed Site
  • Site Plan of Sidewalk Café

Permit Requirements: 

  • Must have a valid Retail Food Establishment license or tavern license.
  • Cafes must be located on the sidewalk only.
  • Cafes may extend in front of a neighboring property that is not a retail food or retail liquor establishment. If extending, applicants must show proof that they have notified the neighboring owner and occupant of their plans.
  • Cafes must have a boundary that fully enclosed the permitted area and separates the area from the remainder of the public way (other than the entrance).
  • There must be a 6-foot clearance for pedestrians along the sidewalk.

What is the cost for sidewalk cafés?
Sidewalk café prices remain the same, starting at $600 and increasing based on the total size of your café. You will be prompted for payment once the city approves your application.

Are taverns able to get sidewalk café permits again?
Yes! Any business with a valid retail food establishment license or tavern license is able to apply for a sidewalk café permit.

Can I serve alcohol at my sidewalk café?
Businesses with a valid liquor license may serve alcohol at their sidewalk café.

Schedule a UBC Consultation for support with your sidewalk café application.

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Upcoming Business Resource Events

Social Media Marketing 101
Monday, March 25th | 4-5PM | Uptown Business Center, 4619 N Broadway
Get a hands-on training covering critical social media strategies for your small business. Expand your digital marketing with this free workshop! Bring your devices for a user-friendly training on how to plan, create, and schedule social media posting to expand your business visibility and bring in more customers.

FREE DIGITAL MARKETING SERVICES

Digital Marketing Services

Current Grant Opportunities

McKinsey Fast Grants
Applications Open Until February 29, 2024

McKinsey and Allies for Community Business will provide $10,000 grants to four small businesses whose founders show significant promise for impact. Grantees will also have access to support from McKinsey to help refine and scale their organizations over a six-month period. Apply Now.

Eligibility: 

  • Founder must belong to an underrepresented group, including first generation business owners and/or
  • Founder must be from an economically disadvantaged community.

Applications must include written or recorded answers to several prompts about your organization. Grants must be applied for by 11:59pm CT on February 29. Apply Here.

 

Barclays Small Business Big Wins
Applications Open Until March 4, 2024

The Barclays Small Business Big Wins Contest will provide $2,000, $5,000, $20,000, $40,000, and $60,000 cash prizes for small business owners who share how their small business is adjusting to the current economy and impacting their community. Apply Now.

Eligibility: 

  • For-profit business owned by a legal resident of the United States.
  • Owner is at least 18 years old.
  • Business is currently in operation with less than 100 employees.
  • Business started on or before February 4, 2023.
  • Annual business revenue is less than $10 million.

To apply, small businesses must submit a photo and story answering the contest prompts. Learn more and apply here.

 

Small Business Improvement Fund (SBIF)
Rolling Application Windows Starting February 1, 2024

SBIF provides grant funding for permanent building improvements and repairs across the city. SBIF applications are submitted during monthly rollout periods for individual TIF districts and participants can receive grants to cover between 30-90% of the cost of remodeling work with a maximum of $150,000 for commercial properties.

Eligibility:
Learn more about eligible expenses and business eligibility here.

  • Business properties located in a TIF district where SBIF funds are available and SBIF is open for applications (Check to see if your business is in a TIF district here.)
  • Commercial businesses with gross annual sales up to $9 million on average over the previous three years
  • Commercial property owners with net worth up to $9 million and liquid assets up to $500,000
  • Industrial businesses with up to 200 full-time employees
  • Commercial projects (residential projects aren't eligible)

Upcoming SBIF Windows:
WESTERN AVENUE SOUTH
Opens: 9am Thursday, February 1
Closes: 5pm Friday, March 1
Register for an informational webinar on Wednesday, February 7th.

WESTERN AVENUE NORTH
Opens: 9am Friday, September 1
Closes: 5pm Monday, October 2
Register for an informational webinar on Wednesday, March 6th.

LAWRENCE/BROADWAY
Opens: 9am Monday, April 1
Closes: 5pm Tuesday, April 30
Register for an informational webinar on Wednesday, April 3rd.

WILSON YARD
Opens: 9am Wednesday, May 1
Closes: 5pm Thursday, May 30
Register for an informational webinar on Wednesday, May 1st.

See the full SBIF rollout calendar here.

Learn More!
The SBIF application must be submitted to DPD's program administrator, SomerCor. For additional program information or application assistance, visit the SomerCor website at www.somercor.com/sbif.

 

Galaxy Grant Giveaway
Applications Open Until March 31, 2024

The Galaxy Grant only takes 30 seconds to enter for a chance to win $2,750 for your business. Apply Now.

In order to apply, each business must provide:

  • Email
  • Full Name
  • Zip Code
  • Gender (can mark prefer not to say)
  • Ethnicity
  • Business Status

 

Wish Local Empowerment Program
Rolling Application Window

Black-owned businesses can apply for $500-$2,000 grants to support their existing brick-and-mortar businesses. Apply Now.

Eligibility:

  • Black-owned business
  • 18+ years of age
  • 20 or fewer employees
  • Brick-and-mortar shop within the United States
  • Store earns an average annual revenue under $1M

This is a rolling application. Learn more an apply at wish.com/local/empowermentApply Here.

UBC Resources

These presentations and resource packets cover small business resources and information presented at UBC events. Sign up for a free UBC Business Consultation today to learn about other resources for your businesses and to receive personalized support!

Uptown Business Center Partners

In total, there are 8 community Chicago Business Centers located throughout the city. Services are free. Visit chicago.gov/cbc or click here for more information. The UBC provides assistance with licensing, permitting, and additional specialized business services in collaboration with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), local Chambers, and community partners.

Within the map of Lake Shore Drive to the Chicago River, and North-South boundaries of Lincoln Park to Rogers Park, the Uptown Business Center works collaboratively with the following partners:

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