The Iconic Spirits Blog

Classic American Bars: The Mai-Kai, Fort Lauderdale

July 31, 2013

Tags: mai-kai

The massive and phantasmagoric Mai-Kai pays homage to the Polynesian craze that swept America during the post-World War II era. It is the Taj Mahal of the tiki culture, an improbable place that somehow hangs together and exercises a timeless appeal. One of the current members of the management team referred to it as “an escape from everyday life,” which is similar to saying that a private jet or a stretch limousine is a transportation vehicle.

The Mai-Kai was opened in December 1956 by the Thornton brothers, Bob and Jack, on a stretch of Federal Highway that was then deserted. The famous Polynesian Revue made its debut in 1962. Mireille Thornton showed up shortly thereafter, auditioned to become a dancer, and eventually became Jack’s wife. Jack Thornton sold his interest in the restaurant in 1969 and Bob passed on two decades later, but Mireille still runs the place and choreographs the show. (more…)