City of Chicago's Entertainment, Performing Arts and Theater Licensing

Ensure your venue has proper licenses and permits

If you offer entertainment as part of your business or are planning a large event in the City of Chicago, you may require a special license. These licenses range from PPA (Public Place of Amusement License (4-156)) to PAV (Performing Arts Venue) to Indoor Special Event Licenses. If your event does require a license, be sure to ask a Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection (BACP) business consultant before planning any entertainment or holiday events. Make an appointment online by visiting the BACP website or calling 312-74-GOBIZ.

Chicago is one of the top rated cities in the country for its unique theatrics, live music, and entertainment. The City’s different types of event licenses are designed to meet the various needs of Chicago’s diverse entertainment industry. If you are looking to sta[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"27045","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"366","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"251"}}]]rt a theater, host an event, or provide other entertainment, you'll need to learn basic information about the City’s licensing requirements.

What is a Public Place of Amusement (PPA) License?

PPA license is required to produce, present, or conduct any type of amusement. Venues charging an admission fee or accepting a donation for any type of entertainment or amusement require a PPA license. Venues with a capacity of 100 or more people that offer any entertainment or amusement require a PPA, regardless if an admission fee is charged.

Fees range from $770 to $13,200 based on occupancy.

Who Needs a PPA?

The list includes, but is not limited to:

  • Live Theaters & Concert Halls

  • Sports Stadiums
  • Movie Theaters
  • Bowling Alleys
  • Comedy Clubs
  • Businesses with 2+ pool tables
  • Nightclubs & Dance Clubs
  • Businesses with 3+ arcade games
  • Karaoke & DJs
  • Renting out a facility for a party or event open to the public

A complete list of activities requiring a PPA license is available in Chapter 4-156 of the Chicago Municipal Code.

When is a PPA not required?

  • Establishments that provide music and dancing or other amusement and the capacity is less than 100 persons with no admission fee or minimum purchase requirements. Capacity is measured by occupancy determination.

  • Banquet halls that possess a retail food license which provide events that are not open or advertised to the public with no admission fee or minimum purchase requirements, such as a wedding or birthday party.

  • Orchestras of eight pieces or less without any other performer, including a singer, in a restaurant, hotel, or retail establishment with no admission fee or minimum purchase requirements.

  • Health clubs, racquetball or tennis clubs, or similar clubs organized on a membership basis for the recreation of its members and guests.

  • Amusements presented within a private club or lodge solely for its members and its guests. A private club is a not-for-profit organization active for at least 3 years with an established membership role of at least 50 dues paying members.

  • BACP offers free monthly workshops to help you prepare for your business inspections.  Visit BACP online to check out the monthly educational workshop calendar.

Other Related Amusement Licenses

Indoor Special Event Class A

This license was created for temporary amusement events that are open to the public on a limited basis. The license applies to events that are offered in a venue with a gross floor area of at least 75,000 sq. ft. or a lot size of at least 2 acres.The license authorizes 30 events per year and is issued on a 2-year term for total of 60 events. The license is required if the premise does not have a Public Place of Amusement license.

Fee: $6,000

Indoor Special Event Class B

This license was created for not-for-profit organizations offering temporary amusement events that are open to the public on limited basis. It authorizes up to six, 3-day events per year and must be located in a B, C or M zoning district. The license is required if the premise does not have a Public Place of Amusement license.

Fee: $100 / per day

Performing Arts Venue License (PAV)

The PAV license was created to accommodate Chicago’s smaller theaters. This license is required for any establishment providing live theatrical or other live cultural performances in a venue with a maximum capacity of 500. The maximum capacity may be up to 1000 persons if the theater is incidental to the use of a building that is primarily a church, school or other charitable organization.

Fee: $110 for less than 500 seats. $2 per seat for theaters with a capacity of over 500.

Public Place of Amusement — Juice Bar License

This license is required for establishments that offer live or recorded music, dancing or music videos to minors and persons under 21. This license will not be issued to any establishment that has a liquor license and may not operate between the hours of 2:00 am-11:00 am.

Fee: $770–$13,200 based on occupancy


Finally, BACP offers free monthly workshops to help you prepare for your business inspections. The City of Chicago also recommends: "Before taking out a business loan, signing a lease, or applying for a business license, ensure that the site where you intend to operate is in an appropriately zoned area and that it complies with the current Chicago Municipal Code.  The Code is frequently updated so a new owner needs to check current zoning and code regulations; do not assume the previous owner's designation applies."

Chicago Office of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection
121 North LaSalle Street, Room 800
Chicago, Illinois 60602
(312) 74-GO-BIZ / (312) 744-6249

Published by CAR_Barbara on Tue, 01/08/2008 - 12:23am
Updated on Mon, 06/23/2014 - 5:10pm