Dry Cleaners

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Dry Cleaning Clothes hanging

*** Before taking out a business loan, signing a lease, or applying for a business license, ensure that the site where you intend to operate is in an appropriately zoned area and that it complies with the current Chicago Municipal Code.  The Code is frequently updated so a new owner needs to check current zoning and code regulations; do not assume the previous owner's designation applies. ***

The term “dry cleaner” or “person engaged in the business of dry cleaning” means any person keeping or using more than two quarts of any solvent other than water, including, but not limited to, solvents of the petroleum distillate type, coal tar distillate type or chlorinated hydrocarbon type, for the purpose of cleaning or renovating wearing apparel, fabrics, textiles, drapes, curtains, rugs, blankets, furs, leather or other material, for profit or reward. See Chicago Municipal Code Section 4-100-010.


Step 1: Zoning

Before signing a lease, you should ensure that the location you have chosen for your dry cleaning establishment is properly zoned. You may find this information on the interactive zoning map, in text format on the Zoning and Reference Guide, or by asking a Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) consultant. In addition to zoning requirements, no dry-cleaning establishment in which a flammable solvent having a flash point below 140 degrees Fahrenheit (closed cup tester) is used may be located within 100 feet of a school, church, hospital or theater. See Chicago Municipal Code, Section 4-100-090.


Step 2: Application

In order to operate a dry cleaning establishment, a Regulated Business License (RBL) – Dry Cleaner  is required. The following documentation and information is required when applying for an RBL from BACP: the name of your business, business address, square footage, Illinois Business Tax (IBT) number, Federal Employers Identification Number (FEIN) and a photo I.D. The application can be filed online, or in person.

License application fee for Limited business license = $250.00

Fees are based on a 2-year term.


Step 3: Permits and Inspections

Business Affairs & Consumer Protection (BACP)– In addition to issuing business licenses, BACP is the department which handles General Grants of Privilege for the use of the public way. These applications are necessary when a business owner wishes to hang a sign or awning from a building, and the sign or awning hangs over the public way.

    1. Prior to hanging or constructing any sign, canopy, awning and/or light fixture that hangs over the public way, an LBL applicant must file a Grant of Privilege Permit Application with BACP-Public Way Use Unit. This detailed process may include obtaining additional permits from DOB and approval from the City Council. All business identification items such as signs, awnings, canopies and banners are required to have a DOB sign permit. Only a licensed sign contractor may apply to obtain a sign construction permit. Please see the list of approved sign contractors.
    2. For temporary use of the public way (such as the obstruction of a sidewalk to place an awning that hangs over a temporary construction project), contractors must obtain a Public Right of Way Use Permit from the Chicago Department of Transportation. Information about this permitting process is available here.

Chicago Fire Department – Bureau of Fire Prevention (FPB) – FPB is the department which ensures that fire safety and fire prevention measures are in place.

    1. In the event that a Hazardous Materials license is required in addition to the LBL, FPB will investigate the applicant’s business including all containers, tanks and buildings that are used to store hazardous materials; all vehicles used in connection with the business; and the methods and equipment intended to be used. FPB will determine whether they are or will be in compliance with fire prevention provisions of the Chicago Municipal Code.

Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) – CDPH issues Air Pollution Control Permits (APC) to install, erect, construct, reconstruct, alter or add a piece of equipment with the potential to emit air contaminants. 

  1. See Procedures for Pollution Prevention Permits for forms to be filed with CDPH for dry cleaners.  If your project involves building construction or renovation, you can apply for a permit online through the DOB website. Please note that APC Permits are called Environmental Equipment Permits on DOB’s website. 

Step 4: Additional Licenses and Permits

Hazardous Materials. In some cases, a hazardous materials license is required in addition to the LBL. This license is necessary when significant quantities of flammable or hazardous materials and/or liquids are stored or used at the business location. Information regarding the hazardous materials license can be found in the Chicago Municipal Code, Section 4-115-020. In addition to application information, the applicant must submit proof of arrangements for the disposal of all cleaning solvents and other non-refuse waste by a properly licensed waste hauler.


Step 5: State and Federal Compliance

In addition to the City of Chicago regulations outlined above, new dry cleaning establishments may need to comply with State of Illinois and Federal regulations related to taxation, employment, and health along with other requirements.

You can make an appointment with a business consultant online or by calling 312.74.GOBIZ (744.6249).

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