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Online bar site is guide to offline fun

Web publishers are learning that Web geeks want to have a good time--wherever they are. And advertisers seem willing to pick up the tab.

Surfing the Net all day can wet the ol' whistle. But before logging off, you can find out which neighborhood pub is still open and who can blend a mean margarita.

Long ago, entrepreneurs figured out that people go online to get information quickly. Now publishers are learning that Web geeks also want to have a good time--wherever they are. And advertisers seem willing to pick up the tab.

The creators of the latest online guide are tapping bar hoppers in the Windy City with tomorrow's launch of BarsOnline, a guide to the Chicago scene. The site will feature ads from local bars and is lining up national ads targeted at bar owners as well. Traditional print ads will be used to promote the site and its sponsored events.

"We spent a year bar hopping. We've been almost everywhere," said John Keenan, president of Anthem Corporation which produces the site. "The site will help people find a good place to hang out."

The site lists bars by neighborhood. It also includes a legend to indicate whether an establishment has a beer garden, pool table, serves food, or is open late. It doesn't review the cocktails or service, however.

"We'll have a bar poetry contest and bar trivia contest. We'll let people know if it's a good place to watch sports, if the place is cigar friendly, if it serves martins, or if it's good place to go on a date," Keenan said.

After Chicago, the 32-year-old wants to expand. He's recruiting pals across the country to set up listings for their hometowns later this year. The audience is already defined--young adults who have money in their pocket and a taste for originality.

Taverns and beer lovers already have a big presence on the Net. A quick search on Yahoo returns a list of sites mostly about beer pubs, half of which are in Europe. There is also a bar guide for most major cities including New York, Washington, and London.

Other sites feature frequent articles such as Beer Travelers. Along with a Brewpub Finder that contains 799 worldwide locations, the site's section Road Trips has tales about everything from biker bars to romantic venues.

The The Half-Decent Footy Pub Guide has more of a niche audience.

Its a guide to pubs around the world where people can watch soccer on TV. Reviews are submitted by visitors.

International bars also are abundant online. For example, the Guide to Pubs and Bars in Paris, rates bars on music, ambiance, beer, cocktails, and prices.

And then there are the virtual pubs, which only exist in cyberspace. They maybe fun if for those chained to their computer, but they don't exactly rake in ad dollars.

So BarsOnline will stick to pointing visitors to the numerous physical locations in Chicago where actual money is spent. Because as Ray Kracik, Anthem's director of sales says, "You can't throw a stone in the Windy City without hitting a bar."