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Uptown Business Center


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, or calling 773-878-1064.

Upcoming Business Resource Events

Money Smart: Financial Management
Tuesday, April 16th | 3-4PM |Wintrust Uptown
4800 N Sheridan
Learn the concept of financial management for your small business and learn the rules and tools commonly available with this free training with Wintrust Bank. As part of this Money Smart workshop, you'll learn more about financing for your small business and how to manage your working capital and fixed assets.

Wintrust will also be hosting a product fair ahead of this event at the same location, 4800 N Sheridan. Stop by to learn about small business banking with Wintrust starting at noon ahead of Money Smart!

SBIF 101
Wednesday, April 24th | 3:00-4:00PM
Uptown Business Center, 4619 N Broadway
Secure funding for permanent building improvements and repairs for your small business! Learn about SBIF for the following TIF districts: Lawrence/Broadway (April 2024), Wilson Yard (May 2024), Clark/Montrose, Lincoln Ave.

Bookkeeping 101
Tuesday, May 14th | 3:00-4:30PM
Uptown Business Center, 4619 N Broadway
Learn digital bookkeeping basics for your small business! Topics will include accounting principles, double entry bookkeeping, financial reports, and your chart of accounts.

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. Note that the City's application portal has been updated and the design has changed. The requirements for a sidewalk café permit remain the same.

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.

Summer Festival Sanitation Certificate Classes are Open!

All businesses that wish to operate a food stand/temporary food establishment at a special event or summer festival must obtain a special event food license. As part of the license, each establishment must have a Person In Charge onsite with an original and valid Summer Festival Food Vendor Sanitation Certificate (SFFVSC).

Classes are now open to secure your SFFVSC! Here is the city's list of approved training providers, including languages available at each site.

If you'd like to learn more about being a vendor at outdoor events this summer, view a recording of the Farmers Market + Street Festival Vendor event here.

View a list of upcoming vendor opportunities in our recent newsletter.

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Current Grant Opportunities

Small Business Improvement Fund (SBIF)
Rolling Application Windows - Lawrence/Broadway Open Now

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.

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

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


Giving Joy Microgrants
Applications Open Until April 30, 2024

Women ages 18 and up can apply for microgrants to support an existing business or to jumpstart a new business idea. Apply here.


  • Applicant identifies as a woman as is over 18 years old
  • Grant activities have a social benefit to your community

Giving Joy Microgrants are awarded to businesses or business concepts that have positive social impact, especially for women, girls, and families. Grant awardees will be notified in August. Apply now.


Fast Break for Small Businesses
Applications Open Until September 13, 2024

Accion Opportunity Fund, Legal Zoom, and other partners are awarding $10,000 grants and LegalZoom services to small businesses. Apply here.


  • Based in the United States
  • In business for at least 3 months
  • Annual revenue of less than $1 million with active business bank account
  • If in business for 12 months or more, must provide most recent year's business tax return or alternative business information

Applicants must create a Submittable account to apply for this opportunity. Awardees will be notified on a rolling basis until September 30. Apply now.


LISC Black Restaurant Fund
Rolling Application Window

Local Initiatives Support Collaboration (LISC) and UberEats are partnering to provide Black-owned restaurants and restaurants serving the Black community with growth capital. Growth capital is a long-term investment tool that is only paid back once the business reaches success. Learn more and submit an inquiry here.


  • Black-owned restaurants or restaurants serving the Black community
  • Must earn an annual revenue between $250,000 and $3,000,000
  • In operation for at least two years
  • Active UberEats partner
  • Located in an economically disadvantaged community

Growth capital is granted on a rolling basis. Complete the intake form here.


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.


  • 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 Here.


The TL Effect
2024 Application Opening Soon

The TL Effect is a mentorship program focused on women-of-color entrepreneurs with consumer-focused early-stage start-ups. This is a six month program that will level up your business. Learn more here! 


  • Owner must be a woman of color
  • Female-owned business (>51% female employees)
  • Early-stage consumer-focused start-up with an existing product or service

Applications to join the 2024 cohort are opening soon, fill out this form to be alerted when that application opens!

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 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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The Uptown Business Center's service is marked by easy accessibility and genuine enthusiasm for supporting small businesses. Kylie goes above and beyond her duty to help us navigate challenges and explore opportunities. Her commitment to fruitful consultations has provided invaluable insights, guiding us toward informed decisions that have positively impacted our businesses. UBC events with banks and connecting with potential customers has proven to be extremely helpful in fostering connections and opening up new avenues for collaboration.
- Malicha Dida, Gobez Coffee

Working with Uptown Business Center has been such a great pleasure! Kylie Ruscheinski has been such an amazing help all around. She has guided us with great grants, to ways how to manage our social media pages, and best ways to promote our restaurants. Kylie is very hands on and works with you through all your questions or problems you may have. We have been very fortunate to be introduced to Uptown Business Centers.

- Oscar Hernandez, Falcon's Handcrafted Sandwiches

The Uptown Business Center is an invaluable resource for businesses and for our office. I've lost count of the number of times I've sent small businesses their way who have been looking for help with a range of business licensing, permitting, and brainstorming questions. Many of these businesses follow up with me specifically to thank me for connecting them with UBC after their meetings with Kylie. Having a partner who I can trust to help prospective businesses get off the ground or existing businesses figure out licensing or permitting concerns is incredible. We're eternally grateful for her work and partnership! 
- Lucy Nye, Director of Development and Business Affairs, 47th Ward Office

I had the pleasure of meeting with Kylie Ruscheinski at Uptown Business Center to navigate some of the challenges I was facing during the licensing phase of starting my business. Meeting with Kylie was a small investment of time with a massive impact—she helped me prepare my documents in advance of my in-person meetings with BACP, which helped me get through the licensing process in record time! Her advice and insights were invaluable and helped me open my doors quickly—because of Kylie’s familiarity with the nuances of the City’s licensing requirements, I was able to start offering services that benefit the families in my community sooner and minimize the number of months I was paying rent on an empty space!

- Risa McMahon, Southport Fundamentals

Approaching my 4th decade of life, I have consistently worked as an employee at other businesses. With that experience and a dream to achieve a lot more on my own terms, I chose to create an LLC for my eye care business. It was one of the best business decisions to join the Uptown Chamber of Commerce because I learned about the Uptown Business Center and met the director Kylie Ruscheinski. I can tell that everyone working at the Business Center and the Chamber of Commerce is really invested in the success of the organizations and businesses who ask for help. Every time I talk with the director, Kylie, I learn so much that helps me achieve more success in my business as a doctor who is new to entrepreneurship. It is extremely helpful to have the workshops and services available to business owners that exist at the business center and I hope to see this continued support toward local business owners.

- Dr. Karina N Fulton, Willow Vision Health

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