CHICAGO (CBS) – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a package of new reforms to support small businesses across the city.

The Mayor said the plan will reduce costs for businesses, simplify the licensing process, increase transparency, support start-up and innovative businesses, and reduce the burden of inspections for all businesses.

“Small business owners are the foundations of our communities and by supporting them we are creating economic opportunities in every part of Chicago,” said Mayor Emanuel. “These reforms will make it even easier to launch, grow, and thrive as a business owner in Chicago.”

According to the Mayor’s office, the reform plan is designed to build on the Emanuel administration’s efforts over the past seven years to cut red tape, increase support resources for businesses, and encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in every part of the city. The plan will address some of the biggest issues for small businesses:

  • Start-up License Fee will cut the cost of a two-year Limited Business License in half, from $250 to $125, for all new applicants, benefitting an estimated 2,000 entrepreneurs annually.
  • Pop-up Permitting will allow entrepreneurs to test their concept without incurring the cost of a permanent site, including food vendors operating out of pre-approved spaces.
  • Business License Issuance Clock will keep the City accountable with an online timer that starts when an applicant pays a licensing fee and doesn’t stop until the license is issued.
  • Sidewalk Cafe Reforms will allow businesses with permitted sidewalk cafes to operate year-round, an increase from the current limit of nine months.
  • Inspection Modernization will create standard checklists so business owners can know what to expect from different City inspections, institute night and weekend license inspection hours to put the City and businesses on the same schedule, eliminate antiquated regulations, and increase the use of technology so businesses can receive license inspection results immediately.

The City says they are also planning to continue to invest millions of dollars directly into hundreds of businesses on the South and West sides through the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund and Retail Thrive Zones Initiative.