Full disclosure – I love Chicago. Its the only large city I’ve ever really enjoyed visiting. But my positive opinion of the city is probably because I don’t own a business there. In Chicago, you see, if you want to post a sign in the window of your business, you have to get a zoning permit AND hire a sign contractor licensed by the city. If you don’t, you could face thousands of dollars in fines.
To hang a sign. In your own business.
What a joke.
Want to put a sign—or even just a sticker—on the window of your Chicago pizzeria? Better get a licensed contractor and a zoning review first, or else expect to pay fines ranging in the thousands of dollars.
Scott Toth, owner of Craft Pizza in the city’s Wicker Park neighborhood, learned about this regulation last year when his business was ticketed. He had four vinyl stickers in his business windows, which he put up in 2014 and 2015.
According to Toth, the city’s rules regarding signs are rarely enforced, and he only knows of a couple other businesses in his neighborhood that were targeted.
The city’s on-premise sign guidelines apply to window signs made of paper, sticker material, vinyl or film that take up more than 25 percent of a window and are in place for more than 60 days. The rules also apply to signs painted on more than 25 percent of a window. These signs are technically required to go through an expensive permitting process in addition to hiring contractors for installation.
For a permit, a business must pay a zoning review fee of $200 and a building department review fee based on the size of the sign. Building department review fees range from $50 for signs between zero and 49 square feet up to $1,000 for a sign over 500 square feet.
Fines for noncompliance range from $350 to $15,000 per sign per day. It is unknown how the city determines the fine amount. The Department of Buildings, which enforces this regulation, did not respond to requests for comment from Reason.
Toth says he was not allowed to represent himself and was forced to hire an attorney to fight the fine. After paying his attorney approximately $1,000, the fine was reduced from $1,000 to around $600 and he agreed to pay. “At some point you’ve just got to cry uncle,” Toth says.
Another restaurant, Dove’s Luncheonette, received two violations on two window signs that date back to 2014. According to DNAinfo, the restaurant was able to get the fines waived by applying for permits.
Wicker Dry Cleaners, located next to Craft Pizza, claims that unpermitted signs had been up for 14 years without issue. The painted signs, which read “wedding dress cleaning” and “leather repair,” have since been taken down after inspectors threatened the business with a $1,000-per-day fine.
More at the link.