Acquiring a Business Identification Sign Permit in the City of Chicago

Louis Greenebaum

Posted by Louis Greenebaum

The City of Chicago maintains a formal process to issue permits for any sign with a commercial message that is viewable from the public way.In this piece, we will explore on-premise business identification signs, and the process of acquiring sign permits. 

For the majority of sign permit applications, the landlord of the property will need to be a part of the process and in many cases a general contractor licensed by the City of Chicago and an electrician licensed by the City of Chicago will also need to be part of the sign permit application. 

Sign Permits vs. GOP Permits 

Depending on the sign’s location, it may require two different permits: a sign permit- through the Department of Buildings and a Grant Of Privilege (GOP) permit- through the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. Should a sign overhang public property it will require the GOP permit, a formal approval by the local Alderman, and formal approval by the full Chicago City Council.

Before 2010, the sign permit process and GOP permit process were filed separately. The different processes caused confusion among business owners who received one permit, even though they needed two permits. Since 2010, the processes for sign permits and GOP permits have been paired. If a sign is over the public way, one cannot acquire a GOP permit until the sign permit has been approved by Zoning, further the sign permit is unable to be acquired until the GOP permit has been issued.   

The Zoning review is a critical component of sign permit applications.  The zoning portion of the Municipal Code maintains size restrictions, height restrictions, technology restrictions, and location restrictions, with regards to sign permits.  

Most sign permit applications will end up being greater than 10 pages in length and will include the following:

  • Online sign permit application
  • Supplemental sign permit application
  • Shop drawings or engineering design documents
  • Context photos of the site
  • Site diagram

Fees associated with sign permits include:

  • Zoning review fee of $200.00

DOB sign permit fee based on size

  • 0-49 square feet: $50.00 
  • 50-99 square feet: $100.00
  • 100-199 square feet: $200.00
  • 200-499 square feet: $500.00
  • 500 square feet or larger: $1,000.00

Dept. of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) fee based on type and size

  • Sign which is less than 25 feet, $100.00 annually
  • 25 feet and above, $300.00 annually
  • Banners: $75.00 each
  • Awnings & Canopies $50.00 for the first 25 feet + $1 each additional foot
  • DOB sign inspection fees which occur at least every 24 months start at $40.00


After a new sign application package is received by the Department of Buildings (DOB), the review process can take 1-2 months with sign permits being issued between 2-5 months. At the time of publication, the following timelines are typical:

  • 2-3 months for a sign overhanging private property
  • 3-5 months for a sign overhanging public property

In the last twelve months, 3,186 sign permit applications have been submitted to the DOB and 3,899 sign permits have been issued by the DOB. Also within the last twelve (12) months 1,793 sign violations have been issued by DOB inspectors. 

Out of the 90,063 building code violations issued by the DOB in 2019, 1,662 of them were sign permit violations.There are natural complexities when two linked permits must traverse Zoning, DOB, and BACP, before either permit is issued.

Stay tuned for our post on the new fast-track business sign permit process for signs that are 16 feet or smaller.

Should you or your company need assistance with managing, coordinating, or consulting on sign permits please contact us at Burnham Nationwide. 

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