Open a Business

Our goal is to make opening a new business or expanding an existing business quick and easy! The Village provides continuous support to new and existing businesses. Call Liz Dechant, Economic Development Coordinator, at 847-716-3528 or email her.

Steps to Opening a Business


Find a Space 

Find a commercial property for rent or for sale on the Village’s comprehensive Available Properties webpage

Check Zoning 

Determine if your business is allowed to open in a specific commercial space by right as a permitted use, or if it requires a Special Use Permit. Winnetka’s Zoning Map (PDF) shows the commercial and multi-family zones, including the C-2 Commercial Overlay District, which is subject to uses that encourage retailing and clustering of uses.  A table of permitted and special uses for each commercial district is in the Village Code. 

Change of Use & Fire Sprinkler System Requirements 

Village Code requires that if the proposed use in a commercial space will be different than the previous tenant, the building is required to have an automatic fire sprinkler system. Business uses are based upon the International Building Code’s occupancy classifications and determined by the Winnetka Fire Department

Schedule a Pre-Occupancy Walk-Through

Before finalizing a lease, we highly recommend scheduling a free pre-occupancy walk through of a commercial space with inspectors from the Community Development and Fire Department. This walk-through ensures all life-safety issues are addressed and staff will answer questions about planned renovations and help identify any repairs or upgrades needed prior to opening. To schedule, download and return the Business Establishment Occupancy form (PDF) and a plan of how you intend to utilize the space. 

Business License 

The Village only requires business licenses for businesses intending to sell or service food and/or drink items. Contact the Economic Development Coordinator for more information, including for home-based businesses. 

Obtain Building & Sign Permits

Renovation or repair work require building permits to ensure work is performed in compliance with applicable building codes. Any signage or changes to the exterior of the building require a Certificate of Appropriateness. Before you start work, call the Permit Coordinator at 847-716-3520  to determine if your project requires a permit or a Certificate of Appropriateness.

Obtain a Food Establishment License

Businesses intending to sell or serve food and/or drink items are subject to compliance with health and sanitation requirements. The Village employs a licensed Sanitarian to administer standards and code requirements. License applications for both food dealers and restaurants are available for download.

Obtain a Liquor License

Businesses which intend to sell or serve beer, wine, or liquor are required to obtain a liquor license and are subject to compliance with the Village’s liquor control requirements. Apply for a Liquor License from the Police Department, which has detailed information on the available classes of licenses.

Utilities & Services

The Village provides water, electric, sanitary sewer and stormwater (sewer) service to all residents and businesses. To obtain utility service, submit a customer service application request to the Finance Department

Refuse & Recycling

The Village provides refuse collection services for businesses from Village-provided refuse dumpsters. The size of refuse dumpsters and frequency of collection may vary depending on the need of the business and space available. Recycling services are provided as a contract service in recycling dumpsters throughout the commercial districts. Visit the Village website to see a map of container locations. Contact the Public Works Department at 847-716-3550 to request a dumpster. 

Purchase Employee Parking Permits

Off-street employee parking is plentiful in each business district. Apply for employee parking permits online or in-person at Village Hall. Permits cost $10 for 12 months, and are valid July 1 – June 30 annually.

Pop-Up Business

Opening a seasonal business? Launching a start-up? The Village supports burgeoning entrepreneurs to open a short-term, temporary “pop-up store.”  We are happy to assist you in seeking the right space!