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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

A-Frame Sandwich Board Signs Are Illegal In Chicago? They Shouldn’t Be, Aldermen Say

Businesses can get hit with fines of $100 currently if they use the sandwich boards outside their stores.

An A-frame or "sandwich board" sign on Damen Avenue, advertising for Moon Voyage boutique.
Alisa Hauser/Block Club Chicago

BUCKTOWN — Putting an A-frame sign, or sandwich board, outside a business is a popular way to draw in foot traffic and for workers to show a little creativity.

But not in Chicago, where the signs are illegal and considered a hazard for pedestrians.

But some aldermen are trying to change that.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) on Thursday introduced an ordinance that would legalize sandwich board and A-frame signs as long as owners get a $250 two-year permit. The proposal has 28 co-sponsors.

The little-known existing ordinance can cost business owners $100 per ticket if they are caught violating it.

Adam Rosen, owner of Shuga Records in Wicker Park, retired his store’s sandwich board sign last year after he was fined $450 for having it on the sidewalk.

“I hope it actually gets changed, if they allow me to get a permit I will be excited and will go get one,” Rosen said.

Adam Rosen got fined for having a sandwich board sign in front of his business. [Alisa Hauser/DNAinfo] 

Since he took the sign down, Rosen said his employees are saying, “everyone is doing it.” But he said he does not want to be fined again.

The Small Business Advocacy Council hailed the proposed new ordinance Thursday, saying a coalition of small businesses support it.

“A-frame signs are an inexpensive and impactful way for small business owners to promote their businesses,” said Elliot Richardson, founder and president of the small business council. “This ordinance is a win-win – businesses can feel confident about using these important marketing tools and the city can ensure public safety in areas of high foot traffic.”

The proposed ordinance only allows signs outside the city’s Downtown business district.

Other rules include:

1) Only one sign per street address.

2) It can’t be larger than six square feet.

3) The sign “shall be professionally printed, or handwritten using clean lettering on a dark surface.”

4) It cannot be “directly illuminated.”

5) It cannot be bolted or chained down.

6) It can only be displayed when the business is open.

7) It can’t be within 30 feet of a crosswalk.