Starting Your 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.

Steps to Opening a Business

Find A Space 

Find the space that is right for your business! Visit the LOIS website for available retail spaces.

Check Zoning 

Winnetka’s zoning ordinance establishes several commercial and multi-family zones (view a Zoning Map (PDF)) located along the Green Bay Road Corridor near each of the Village’s three Metra commuter rail stations. In each zoning district, certain business types are allowed by right as a permitted use. Others require a public hearing before the Plan Commission and adoption of a Special Use ordinance by the Village Council before occupying a space. The Village Code contains a table of permitted and special uses for each commercial district. 

Many street-facing commercial storefronts in the Elm Street and Hubbard Woods business districts also lie within a Retail Overlay zoning district, which requires Special Use approval for businesses such as medical and professional offices, realtors, financial institutions, and personal services establishments such as hair or nail salons (among others). Check to see if a Special Use approval is required. If you have questions about whether a specific type of business is allowed in a particular space, contact the Community Development department at 847-716-3527. 

Schedule A Pre-Occupancy Walk-Through

Before finalizing a lease, we recommend contacting the Village to schedule a free pre-occupancy walk through before a lease is finalized. As part of our commitment to you, we provide a free walk-through of any commercial space with inspectors from the Community Development and Fire Department to ensure the business use is allowable and it meets all life-safety requirements. Staff will answer questions about planned renovations and help identify any repairs or upgrades needed prior to opening. To begin, download and fill out the “Business Establishment Occupancy” form. Plan to provide a drawing of how you intend to utilize the space. Contact the Economic Development Coordinator to get started, and email the Permit Coordinator to schedule a pre-occupancy walk-through.

Obtain Building and Sign Permits

If you plan to undertake any renovation or repair work before opening your business, you will need to submit plans and obtain building permits in order to assure that work is performed in compliance with applicable building codes. Codes adopted by the Village establish minimum requirements for the safety and well-being of the property owner, occupants, and the general public. Contact the Permit Coordinator to determine if your project requires a permit. 

If your plans include changes to the exterior of a commercial building including installation of signage, your plans will also need to be reviewed by the Design Review Board and granted a Certificate of Appropriateness, even if no building permit is required. Contact the Associate Planner at the Village to learn more about this process: 847-716-3587.

Obtain Food Establishment and Liquor Licenses

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.

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.

Pop-Up Business

Opening a seasonal business? Launching a startup? The Village supports burgeoning entrepreneurs to open a short-term, temporary “pop-up store.” This may be an attractive option for a startup or growing brands seeking to test the market. The lobby of the Coldwell Banker office on Lincoln Avenue hosts pop-up stores throughout the year.  We are happy to assist you in seeking the right space for your pop-up store! Contact Liz Dechant at 847-716-3528.