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This Is What It Takes To Put Up A Sign In Chicago

By Ariel Cheung | September 28, 2015 5:31am
 Want to put up a sign in Chicago? There might be a few hang ups..
Want to put up a sign in Chicago? There might be a few hang ups..
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Flickr/ debaird™

LAKEVIEW — Red tape, thy name is Chicago.

For those who open businesses or renovate their homes, it's no secret that the city's permit process can be a huge pain and a serious schedule-ruiner.

But even when it comes to the simple things — like hanging a sign in front of a business — it can take months, require heaps of paperwork and cost up to $1,000, according to a group trying to change the process.

Signs of Change, a coalition spearheaded by the Small Business Advocacy Council, recently shared a chart showing just what it takes to get a sign in the city.

The group estimates that the process has cost the city millions in revenue as entrepreneurs opt-out of the process, either because of the time length or the inability to hire a licensed sign erector.

New businesses display signs to reach potential customers," said Elliot Richardson, co-CEO of the Small Business Advocacy Council. "However, the process for displaying a sign in Chicago must be streamlined. We look forward to working with the City of Chicago and our aldermen on this important initiative that will empower the small business community."

Other members of the Signs of Change coalition include chambers of commerce in Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, Belmont-Central, Andersonville, Logan Square, West Town, Edgewater and Wicker Park and Bucktown.

Ariel Cheung says signs help businesses, and time is money:

There are two options: Getting a sign permit from the building department or a public-way use permit through a city ordinance. The sign permit takes about two months and can cost over $1,000 after hiring a bonded sign erector and paying a $200 application fee and an inspection fee.

A public-way permit's first year fee is capped at $175 for signs under 25 square feet, but the permit is only valid for five years. It also takes at least 60 days to get city council approval.

Instead, Signs of Change proposes requiring only aldermanic approval — instead of a City Council ordinance — and allowing renewals to skip the reapplication process after the five-year permit expires.

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