Congratulations on starting your new business here in Elgin! We couldn't be more excited to help you on this journey. As you know, there is quite a lot to consider as you begin this process. Working with the us from the start is the best way to begin, so we recommend that you don't commit to any purchases or leases until you have spoken with us. We encourage you to review our Doing Business Packet to get an idea on the overall process and a lot of helpful information. 

The City is currently working to update the permitting and licensing process to ensure that it is transparent and accessible. In order to that efficiently, these applications have been updated and are available in our document center here. Additionally, a new online portal and mobile are being created to better enable you to apply for and track your applications. Currently you can create an account for yourself and your business, link and pay water bills, and submit a Zoning Inquiry or 311 Request. You can track all of your activity and update you account directly from the portal or mobile app. As the permitting and licensing applications are moved online, you will see more of that activity in the portal.

Where do you start?

The Zoning Inquiry Form is the very first step. It's a short form that you complete and send to our Community Development department to see if what you want to do is allowed in the space that you want to do it in. If you don't know where you want your business to be located yet, be sure to connect with our partner organizations that are listed on our Business Resources page.

Once you complete the zoning inquiry form, you will be notified of the options available to you: 

  • If your business is fully allowed at your desired location, you are all set to move forward with your Business Application. 
  • If your business is conditionally allowed at your desired location, it means that your proposed business will have to go through the Conditional Use Zoning Approval process. This entails additional fees and applications as well as a public hearing. Contact Community Development for more information on this process. Completing this process does not guarantee your zoning will be approved.

If your zoning is not allowed at your desired location, that does not mean you are stuck. You have two options available:

  • Find an alternate location where your business could be allowed.
  • Proceed with a Conditional Use Zoning approval process. This entails additional fees and applications as well as a public hearing, but if you are set on your location, this option is available to you. Contact Community Development for more information on this process. Completing this process does not guarantee your zoning will be approved.

The Business Application is the next step to opening your business. The more information you provide, the better our responses to you will be. Simply complete the application and bring it in to our Community Development department and we will review it. We will get back to you with a comprehensive response in 7-10 business days. This response will have any additional permitting needs, estimated fees, and an projected timeline for you. Remember, our responses are based on the information you provide, so the more detailed you are, the more helpful we can be. 

Incentive Programs
Licenses and Permits
Special Use and Events
Snow Removal
Waste Removal

Frequently Asked Questions

The City of Elgin requires all businesses to have an Occupancy Permit and Business License before business operations can begin. Both of these items can be obtained by completing the Business Application. This process can be quick, depending on what you need to have done to your business location.

Each permit has a different fee; most are based on the type of work being done. The Zoning Inquiry Form has no fee associated with it. The Business Application costs $200 and the fee is due when you submit your application. If you have any additional permit applications that need to be submitted, we will notify you of that when we respond to your Business Application, along with the expected fee total.

Our Community Development department will respond to your Zoning Inquiry Form within 3-5 business days and the Business Application within 7-10 business days. Other permit timelines depend on what is required for submittal and how quickly you get the information in. Opening up a business can be a quick or long process depending on the location, zoning and the type of business. Complete the Business Application to get a good idea of the permit timelines. The Business Application is just the first step in opening your business in Elgin and additional information and permitting may be required.

Each permit requires an inspection; some require multiple inspections. Inspection requirements will be provided to you when you are issued a permit. Inspections are part of the permitting process, so there is no additional cost for them, but re-inspection fees may occur in the event that more than 3 re-inspections are required. Don't worry though, most inspections are passed on the first try.

Most permits expire after 180 days, with the exception of the Occupancy Permit, which doesn't expire.

If you are preparing food, there will be Health Department requirements and inspections. If you plan on doing any plumbing work contact the Fox River Water Reclamation District (FRWRD). We will need their permit to issue our permit. Also, if your business will be doing any cooking, a grease interceptor may be required, which should also be discussed with FRWRD. Are you planning on having video gaming in your business? You must have a liquor license in order to have gaming in your establishment. If your business will have multiple components such as a retail store that also has a cafe and classes, your business is a mixed-used business and there may be additional requirements.

We encourage you to have a business plan, which will often answer many of the questions we ask on our Business Application. You will also need a floor plan, site plan, etc. Other documents that may be required on other permits are elevation drawings, etc.

If you will be doing any major construction, you will need to provide plans created and stamped by an architect. We will let you know if you need to submit this information when we respond to your Business Application.

Include the following in your calculations: Floor space used for mechanical equipment, whether open or enclosed, including such equipment as may be located on the roof, penthouse, attic space, balconies, mezzanines, porches and verandas and floor area devoted to and occupied by accessory uses. Principal and accessory floor area, cellars and basements, storage or detached accessory buildings, even though any such floor area may be temporarily vacant or not in use. Do not include: Common areas in multi-occupant buildings not used, reserved or retained for the exclusive use of a business establishments including, but not limited to, lobbies, elevators, and hallways.

Open a business infographic- orange and blue
Open a business infographic back- orange and blue
  1. 311 Contact Center

    Phone: 311 or 847-931-6001 if out of city limits