Navigating Occupancy Capacity Signs in the City of Chicago

Louie Greenebaum

Posted by Louie Greenebaum

Occupancy capacity signs are often confused with certificates of occupancy and today we share what sets an occupancy capacity sign apart. 

What is an Occupancy Capacity Sign and When is it Required?

Per chapter 14A of the Chicago Municipal Code, an occupancy capacity sign is required for rooms or spaces that are designed or used for more than 100 people to gather for civic, political, educational, religious, social, athletic, recreational, or similar activities. This definition includes the following examples: amphitheaters, art galleries, auditoriums, banquet halls, bowling alleys, churches, dancehalls, funeral parlors, gymnasiums, museums, schools, theaters

The following entities also have the ability to require an occupancy capacity sign for any facility with less than 100 person occupancy load: Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, the Local Liquor Control Commissioner, the Zoning Administrator, and the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Establishments that are applying for a public place of amusement license, an incidental liquor license, a tavern license, or an outdoor patio liquor license are required to acquire and post an approved occupancy capacity sign as a condition of acquiring their liquor license(s).

What Information Does the City Need for an Occupancy Capacity Sign?

  1. Application
  2. 11x17 floor plans. Architects routinely prepare the floor plans for the occupancy capacity sign applications. Below is a list of items that must be present on the 11x17 formatted floor plans: 
    • Full floor / furniture plan - wall to wall room dimensions
    • Rooms fully dimensioned
    • Area and capacity - call out number of movable and fixed seating
    • Exit locations
    • Exit and aisle width dimensions
    • Indicate where exits lead
    • Graphic scales on each page
    • Key plan

The City of Chicago Application Process Checklist: 

  1. Zoning Review
  2. Department of Buildings Review
  3. Department of Buildings Inspection
  4. Department of Buildings Report
  5. Occupancy Capacity Sign(s) issued

Items An Inspector Looks for During an Occupancy Capacity Inspection

  • Exits: number, free of obstructions, distance from other exits, keyless
  • Travel distance to exit
  • Stairways: clear of debris, non-combustible, width, not winding but straight
  • Handrails standards
  • Stairway enclosure ratings
  • All openings in fire separations protected
  • Building and venue build-out permitted

Does your Chicago business need assistance acquiring an occupancy capacity sign? Our team is here to help!

Contact our Chicago Office


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