When the Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show reopens next year, a group of aspiring immigrants will be among the many people celebrating the milestone. The partnership between the Thornton Family, Barlington Group, and Mad Room Hospitality is at the forefront of a new trend in restaurant finance, using a little-known U.S. government program to attract investment capital.
Created in 1990, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program allows foreign nationals to obtain permanent U.S. residency by making an investment that results in new job creation in the United States. The program has facilitated billions of dollars of foreign direct investment and created tens of thousands of jobs over the last three decades.
Historically, most immigrant investors have participated in professionally managed, institutional funds that lent their capital to large real estate and public infrastructure projects. A change to the EB-5 program on July 1 of this year makes construction projects impracticable for job creation, leaving would-be investors with limited options.
Because a single EB-5 investment must affect the creation of 10 new permanent jobs, full-service restaurants are one of the few business models that work for EB-5 investment. And while there is no scarcity of new restaurant ventures in search of money, EB-5 investors want to invest with reputable firms. The Barlington Group’s reputation as a world-class restaurant operator and Mai-Kai’s long history of success offer the perfect solution.
To bring in investors, the Barlington Group partnered with EB5 Affiliate Network (EB5AN), a leading EB-5 consultancy and fund manager. EB5AN has raised funds for 15+ EB-5 projects over the last 8 years, bringing in more than $150 million of investment capital and helping hundreds of families to immigrate to the United States. Following the EB-5 program change in July 2021, the EB5AN team turned its focus to restaurants and the Mai-Kai was at the top of the list.
“This is a fantastic project,” said Sam Silverman, founder and managing partner of EB5AN. “The Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show is an institution in south Florida, and so many people I know were heartbroken when it closed down. Our team is thrilled to be part of the relaunch. The new Mai-Kai will create lots of jobs in the greater Fort Lauderdale community, which is what the EB-5 program is designed to do. We can’t wait to celebrate in the Molokai Bar.”