Recently, we have learned that investigators from the Department of Business Affairs and Licensing (the “DBA”) are entering office buildings in the City of Chicago to conduct business license investigations. These investigators are appearing in downtown Chicago buildings seeking access to individual tenants for the purpose of verifying that those tenants have the proper license and that such license, if required, is properly displayed. Some of these clients have received citations for non-compliance in the forms of a notice of violation, an administrative notice of violation and a demand for payment of a monetary penalty.

The City of Chicago requires that all persons who “conduct, engage in, maintain, operate, carry on or manage a business” in the City of Chicago that (a) do not fall under another license category and (b) are not exempt from city licensing, obtain a Chicago business license from DBA. Furthermore, the license must be posted “in a conspicuous place at the premises where the business or occupation is being conducted.” If a DBA investigator determines that a business has violated these requirements, the DBA may issue: (1) a notice of violation; (2) a cease and desist order; or (3) an administrative notice of violation - requires the business to appear before an Administrative Law Officer to respond to the charges. Depending upon the type of business, the DBA may also (1) confiscate personal property as evidence of the violation or if specifically mandated by law or (2) arrest a person as a form of enforcement (used when deemed necessary to ensure compliance). In addition, the City of Chicago is authorized to impose fines for such violations ranging from $200 to $10,000 per day.

In general, most entities that conduct business within the City of Chicago are required to obtain a business license and post it in a conspicuous place on their premises. There are, however, businesses that are exempt from these requirements.