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Happy Hour Baltimore: the app that helps you find post-work nirvana

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There's a new app in Baltimore that is targeting the city's bars and restaurants, and the happy hour deals they're offering.

It's called Happy Hour Baltimore, and it's available for free in the Apple App Store. (The creators are working on an Android version.) Here's its website.

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The two guys behind the app are Brian Champlin and Tom Camposano, who got the idea about a year ago while lounging in hammocks at Camposano's home in Southeast Baltimore.

After a year of development, planning and investment (the guys pumped in about $20K to get the app and website off the ground), they launched it about three weeks ago.

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The app does a couple things well. It allows you to browse a map of the city with bars and restaurants that offering specials.

It enables each establishment to post up-to-the-minute offers and deals through the "dispatch" section.

It can connect you with a taxi cab (Raven, Yellow or Blue cab companies) by phone.

And it allows you to share these happy hour spots with friends on Facebook and Twitter, or by email.

"Even the old school baltimore bars that have been there forever, even those guys are going for it," Champlin said. "They get to pull in some of the younger crowd."

Now, what's most impressive, in my book, is that Champlin and Camposano have hammered out a nifty business model. For $250 a year (introductory offer), a restaurant/bar can be included in the app, and they get access to the Dispatch section. That means each restaurateur or bar owner can control the message he/she wants to put out through this app.

This is smart on two levels: it gives the establishment full editorial control over the advertising content they're putting out to consumers. And it means Champlin and Camposano don't have to have a staff manually inputting new happy hour information into the app every day or week.

Right now though, the tough part for the pair, whose business is called Dilly Dally Apps, is getting the word out on the app to establishments and to iPhone users. It's a marketing challenge. So far, they've gotten about 70 bars and restaurants as subscribers (which is pretty good so far, I'd say) and hope to break even this year, and turn a profit next year.

"We basically are in the process of covering the entire city on foot and showing them the app, and selling bars and restaurants on the service," Champlin said. So how'd they build the app and website? Champlin tells me that he and his partner don't have much web design/programming experience, so they hired to computer/Web geeks to build the iPhone app and the website. (Geeks make the world go round.)

Word of mouth works, especially in Baltimore, where people who love this city can be quite chatty. I first learned about the app from following The Falls, a Mt. Washington restaurant on Facebook. That restaurant (full disclosure: which is owned by some friends of mine) put out to their Facebook followers that they were offering specials through the Happy Hour Baltimore iPhone app. Smalltimore. :-)

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