By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Seasoned Miami restaurant and entertainment operators are coming to the rescue of one of South Florida’s iconic restaurant and entertainment venues. Closed for more than a year because of catastrophic water damage to the decades old building and complete destruction of the kitchen, the prospects of Fort Lauderdale’s Mai-Kai ever returning to its former glory seemed dim at best.

The Mai-Kai, a taste of Polynesian food, dance, and Tiki drinks in the heart of Broward County had been the go-to spot for family fun, a dinner and show, weddings, and anniversaries.

Bob Thornton and his brother Jack opened the Mai-Kai in 1956. When a broken water pipe and flood closed them down in October of last year the realization came that there was not enough insurance money to make repairs which included bringing the decades old facility up to present day building codes.

The Thornton Family wanted to continue the Mai-Kai tradition. They had many proposals and offers to buy the property, but none seemed to work until they heard from the operators of Miami’s Ball and Chain.

The announcement came on Facebook.

The Barlington Group and Mad Room Hospitality had rehabbed the Historic Little Havana Club, preserved the brand, and turned the locations into a key attraction on Calle Ocho. A joint venture between the Thornton family and the Miami group was formed and plans were formulated to bring back the Mai-Kai.

“This is a community asset, a Florida asset, and a U.S. asset, and something we are going to protect, support and expand upon. It is an incredible opportunity to preserve a rich part of our history. We really understand what it is to be stewards of an older brand where authenticity and heritage is very important,” said Mai-Kai project Barlington Group co-founder Bill Fuller.

Plans are for an almost total rebuild but preserving the historic Mai-Kai atmosphere, artifacts, and outdoor gardens. The restaurant first opened in 1956 and is on National Register of Historic Places.

No date has been set for the reopening just yet.