The acclaimed Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show rekindles future with new joint venture
Investment breathes new life into South Florida venue after flood damage
OAKLAND PARK, Fla. (September 28, 2021) — South Florida’s iconic Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show, owned and operated by the Thornton family since 1956, has officially teamed up with the Barlington Group, a South Florida-based real estate investment and development company, and Mad Room Hospitality, the proprietors of iconic establishments such as Ball and Chain, Los Altos and Taquerias El Mexicano.
This strategic joint venture will resurrect the renowned Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show, the most unique dining and entertainment experience in South Florida since opening its doors over 6 decades ago.
The Mai-Kai was forced to close in October 2020 when a plumbing incident flooded the kitchen and caused catastrophic damage. The kitchen will undergo a full renovation and the property will be restored to its historical condition to welcome back loyal patrons and attract new clientele to enjoy Mai-Kai’s award-winning cuisine. Restorations and kitchen renovation of the Polynesian venue are set to begin soon and could cost close to $5 million.
“We are humbled to have been selected and honored to have the opportunity to restore this iconic landmark. We are committed to working with the family to preserve the legacy and expand upon its rich history for generations to come.” said Bill Fuller, who co-founded Barlington Group with Martin Pinilla in 2004 and co-founded Mad Room Hospitality with Zack Bush and Ben Bush in 2014. “We look forward to working with the Thornton family and Mad Room Hospitality, in doing the same with The Mai-Kai so that many more generations can enjoy this one-of-a-kind, beloved South Florida institution.”
“We received interest from several investors wanting to partner with us in reopening The Mai-Kai. We ultimately decided to select Bill Fuller and his companies because of their passion and commitment to maintain the authenticity and legacy of The Mai-Kai,” said Kulani Thornton Gelardi, daughter of owner Mireille P Thornton. “We are very excited for this partnership and eagerly anticipate reopening our doors and welcoming back our loyal fan base to enjoy our delicious food, tropical drinks, thrilling entertainment, and unique ambiance that transports visitors to the South Seas.”
The pending reopening date is scheduled to be announced after the restoration and repairs are complete.
American National Bank, a Broward County community bank, provided debt financing for the venture. The real estate transfer was part of the joint venture with the family that values the transaction in excess of $16 million, including artwork, intellectual property and future improvements to the business.
The brokers for the deal were Transworld Business Advisors of Fort Lauderdale and NAI Miami. The Thornton family was represented by Greenberg Traurig, LLP and Stephanie J. Toothaker, Esq. Barlington Group and Madroom Hospitality were represented by Saul Ewing and Alejandra Ramirez.
About The Mai-Kai Restaurant & Polynesian Show
The Mai-Kai is an iconic Polynesian-themed restaurant and entertainment venue in Oakland Park, Florida. First opened in 1956, it is one of the few grand Polynesian palaces still in operation today and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Known for its award-winning cuisine and drinks, authentic Polynesian performance shows, tropical gardens, and genuine Polynesian artifacts, the Mai-Kai has attracted tourists and locals alike for generations. Learn more at maikai.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
About Madroom Hospitality
Mad Room Hospitality was founded by Zack Bush,Ben Bush and Bill Fuller in 2014 as a food and beverage hospitality company committed to delivering an immersive and authentic experience for all, while keeping hospitality at the very forefront of each and every guest experience. Mad Room Hospitality is behind the operations of renowned venues such as Ball and Chain, Los Altos and Taquerias El Mexicano in Miami’s infamous Little Havana neighborhood. Learn more at ballandchainmiami.com, losaltosmiami.com and calleochotacos.com.
About Barlington Group
Barlington Group was founded by Bill Fuller and Martin Pinilla in 2004 as a real estate investment and development company committed to identifying value by restructuring real estate assets. Since its inception, Barlington Group has acquired, developed and managed commercial projects with a value exceeding $250 million. Projects have focused on asset repositioning, ranging from multi-family, retail, office, hotel and mixed-use buildings. Learn more at barlingtongroup.com.
A message from the Thornton family
The family is and always will be dedicated to the Mai-Kai and its legacy. The news stories you have likely read have been unkind, unfair and misleading. It is accurate that we engaged the services of a business broker to assist in finding a partner, or worst case scenario a buyer, to work with our family to ensure the long term success of the Mai-Kai and its legacy. It is not accurate to say that “everything is on the table.”
As you know, like the entire restaurant industry, covid had a devastating effect on the Mai-Kai. Add on a water pipe burst in our kitchen ceiling causing catastrophic damage. These combined events caused our family to go out into the market and seek a partner, while ensuring that the legacy of the Mai-Kai can live on. Rest assured, NO ONE cares more about the Mai-Kai than the Thornton family. Three generations have put our hearts and souls into the Mai-Kai and we are doing whatever we can to preserve our family’s legacy and this beloved South Florida institution. All we ask is that you be patient and allow us to work through this extremely difficult time. Again, please know that it is our hope and our desire to see the Mai-Kai reopen with all its original splendor. We will endeavor to keep you apprised and we thank you for your support.