30 years ago Pittsburgh was a different place. 1988 was the height of the Rust Belt and Brain drain. The South Side was just the south side of Pittsburgh. Into that gritty economic recession, George and Paul Pantelas opened a blues bar named Excuses. Most bars only last three to five years according to a study by the Perry Group. Not only is Excuses still open after 30 years, George is still there running it.
Excuses was built around music and sports. While many now think of the South Side as the place to hear music and watch sports, it was not the case then. Excuses was the only live music bar at times and by far the oldest.
The first time I visited Excuses, you could look out the window, up and down the street and see nothing. Now, the view to the river is obscured by a little thing called the South Side Works. Also while it once stood nearly alone, the street is now filled. Thirty years in, George isn’t slowing down. They are planning an expansion to include more outside seating, a remodel and almost double the space. Don’t expect a change in focus, just more of it.
The bar is celebrating 30 years this week with several special events:
Thursday night: Excuses is bringing back the original Thursday Night Blues Jam with the original Hot House Band.
Friday night: Bill Toms & Hard Rain, fresh off their sold out Italian tour, return to their homebase for a night of rock and soul.
Saturday afternoon: The legendary RHYTHM ACES host the coolest blues jam around with some of the city’s hottest players! This ongoing Saturday institution features numerous vets of the national music scene.
Saturday night: The Aris Paul band will be playing some tunes off of the new album you’ve surely heard on DVE and YEP. Aris’s father, Paul, is one of the founders of Excuses.
30 years for any business is a sign of success, and in this case, 30 years of Excuses ain’t so bad!