The Village of Wilmette is committed to attracting new businesses while also fostering the success of our existing businesses. Below please find information to ensure that the processes involved in expanding or opening your restaurant is completed in an efficient and timely way.


The location you choose must be zoned for the food use you wish to open. Two issues to consider:

  • What type of restaurant you wish to operate (full-service, limited-service, specialty, carry-out, delivery or a combination)
  • What parking is available?

Before entering into any contracts it is recommended that you contact the Business Development Coordinator to discuss the following matters.

Determine what type of restaurant you are:

  • Full-Service
  • Limited-Service
  • Specialty
  • Carry-Out
  • Delivery
  • Or, a combination

Commercial districts are zoned for full-service restaurants. Those that are limited-service or combine full-service with carry-out or delivery may require a special use permit (approval by the Village Board that the location is appropriate for the type of restaurant) depending on their zoning district. Each location is unique; therefore, potential restaurateurs are encouraged to meet with the Business Development Coordinator to help determine the specific issues related to the classification of your restaurant.

Are there any parking spaces solely designated for the use of this food establishment?

Roughly, full-service restaurants require 5 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet and limited-service restaurants require 8 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet. Restaurants located in the Village Center are not required to have as much parking. Restaurants located in a building constructed before 2014 in either the Village Center or Linden Square districts do not have to provide parking.

Because many cases are unique, you are encouraged to contact Village staff regarding both the type of restaurant and the parking requirements.

Building Permits

Information regarding building permits for any construction done to your restaurant can be found here.  Most businesses will need to obtain some type of building permit whether it involves adding some electrical outlets or an entire remodel of an existing store.  In any case a Certificate of Occupancy is required before a commercial space is occupied and open to the public.

Business License

A business license will allow you to conduct business in the Village of Wilmette. Applications can be submitted to the Business Development Coordinator for review. Certain specialty licenses such as a food handler’s license are included on the business license application. If applying for a food handler license please provide proof of your State Food Service Sanitation Certificate along with the application. Before a license can be issued the Business Development Coordinator will verify your business is permitted for your proposed location.


All permanent signs located on the exterior of the building or within a foot of the window require a permit. Businesses adjacent to the street are allowed one large sign to capture the attention of a driver and one small sign to capture the attention of a pedestrian. If a business is located on a corner two larger signs and two smaller signs, one oriented to each street, are permitted.

Creativity is highly encouraged (and one huge component of drawing customers). The process for obtaining your permit includes approval by the Appearance Review Commission. If your sign conforms to the Sign Ordinance, the Commission reviews the sign at their next meeting (they meet once a month). If the sign requires a variation (a special exception from the Sign Ordinance) the approval will take approximately 6 weeks. This is due to public notice, a State of Illinois requirement. In the meantime, temporary signage can be installed. If signage is planned ahead, it can definitely be installed by the time your business opens. Please contact the Business Development Coordinator with your signage ideas as early as possible.

Liquor License

If you wish to serve alcohol, you must apply for a liquor license. Generally, the liquor code permits the sale of liquor when ordered along with a meal. If you wish to serve alcohol in any other way without the sale of food, you may apply for a liquor license with a request for a special license.  This type of request must include a specific proposal for what you wish to do at your establishment.

An application and explanation of the liquor regulation and the different classifications can be obtained from the Village’s Law Department by calling (847) 853-7511. The Judiciary Committee, composed of three Village Trustees, will hear all requests for liquor licenses and will closely consider applications and the details regarding the service of the alcohol. The Committee will then forward their recommendation on to the Village Board for a final vote.

Outdoor Seating

If you wish to provide the option of outdoor seating for your customers, either on a public sidewalk or private property, you can obtain an outdoor seating license for only $25-$50. The seating area must be adjacent to the food establishment and provide at minimum a 5 foot clearance for pedestrian walking. Please contact the Business Development Coordinator for more information, by calling 847-853-7520.