Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection
City Services

Liquor License Restrictions and Special Regulations

Zoning
The City of Chicago is divided into a variety of zoning districts that reflect the diversity of neighborhood uses. Each zoning district has different regulations regarding the type of business activities that are permitted. It is imperative that you check the zoning requirements of your proposed business location carefully. A case manager will check the zoning classification of your proposed business location or if you have identified a business location, you may check the zoning classification through the interactive zoning map through the Department of Zoning.

Dry Wards
The Illinois Liquor Control Act of 1934 permits voters in any precinct in the City of Chicago to vote an entire precinct “dry” through a local option referendum. If a precinct has been voted “dry,” no liquor licenses can be issued. Please check with the case manager to determine if your proposed location is “dry”.

Liquor Moratorium Districts
The Chicago City Council has passed a series of ordinances restricting the issuance of liquor licenses in various locations throughout the City. These restrictions may apply to licenses for consumption on premises, taverns, private social clubs, and stores selling package goods. Restaurant services are generally not subject to these restrictions.

The moratorium ordinances also significantly restrict the transfer of existing liquor establishments to new owners. Presently, there are six limited exceptions in the liquor ordinance that permit existing locations in a moratorium to legally be transferred. The following transfers are permitted:

  • Between spouses;
  • Between parents and children;
  • An heir of the prior license by estate succession or a will;
  • Any shareholder who already held shares prior to the creation of the moratorium area;
  • Any person acquiring less than five percent of the shares of a corporate licensee;
  • Any other person who acquiring the licensed business by purchase if that person can obtain the consent of over 51% of the legal voters registered within 500 feet of the premises.

If the above exceptions do not apply to you, the transfer of a license may only be approved if the local alderman introduces an ordinance to lift the moratorium.  Please see a case manager for petition forms and specific details.

Proximity to Churches, Schools, Homes for the Aged
Licenses for the retail sale of alcoholic liquor will not be issued for establishments within 100 feet of any church (some exceptions to this rule exist pertaining to locations near churches), school (other than an institution of higher learning), hospital, or home for the aged or indigent. Distances are measured in several ways: the distance from a church is measured from the property line of the licensed premises to the nearest part of any building used for worship services or educational programs; the distance from a school is measured from the property line of the school to the property line of the premises to be licensed. Streets, alleys and public ways are included in the measurements mentioned above.

Proximity to Libraries
Licenses for the retail sale of alcohol will not be issued to any establishment within 100 feet of any library, with the exception of the main library.

Proximity to Other Taverns
No new tavern licenses can be issued to any location that is within 400 feet of existing tavern business in certain zoning districts.  This prohibition does not apply to restaurants, hotels offering restaurant services, or not-for-profit clubs.