Move over, Elmo and Mickey — mermaids are coming to Times Square.
A jumbo edition of seafood-centric Mermaid Inn is coming next spring to 127 W. 43d St., a former Heartland Brewery site. Mermaid owners Danny Abrams and Cindy Smith have teamed up in a joint venture with Alicart Restaurant Group CEO Jeffrey Bank on the mammoth, 15,500 square-foot venue that will have 550 seats.
The new Mermaid will be many times larger than three other Manhattan locations. It’s part of a Times Square restaurant resurgence that includes upcoming USA Brooklyn Delicatessen at 1501 Broadway and gigantic Brooklyn Chop House at 253 W. 47th St.
But there’s more to the story. In an unusual step for a restaurant, Mermaid Inn will tap $3 million in foreign investment through the federal government’s EB-5 program, which offers permanent US residency to overseas investors (“green cards”) in exchange for buying passive stakes in certain jobs-creating businesses.
Most EB-5 funding has gone into real estate developments such as Hudson Yards. Mermaid Inn might be the first Big Apple restaurant to participate in the plan. The minimum stake is $500,000 per investor.
Abrams and Bank are longtime friends. Bank, whose company owns nine US eateries including Manhattan’s Carmine’s and Virgil’s BBQ, said he signed a lease on West 43d Street but wasn’t sure what to do with it.
“Then I took my daughter to Mermaid Inn on the Upper West Side for their ‘happy oyster hour,’ ” he recalled. “It clicked right away in my head. What the Mermaid can bring to Times Square is real New Yorkers.”
Banks said he turned to EB-5 when “the world stopped with Covid” and his bank decided not to do any more hospitality lending.
“We typically self-fund our projects, but I knew it would be a challenge to get another bank loan. The EB-5 people had chased me for years. The program is based on creating new jobs, which is exactly what our place is going to do.”
EB-5 investors have no operating role or voting rights, but receive a fixed return — 2 percent at Mermaid, according to the EB-5 Web site.
Abrams and Smith will manage the new venue as they do their earlier Mermaids. “This is Danny’s baby,” Bank emphasized.
But Bank “will help ease us into a much larger space than we’re used to,” Abrams explained.
Abrams said, “We’ll expand the menu to be attractive to a larger number of people.” Business has been so good at Mermaids in Chelsea, the Upper West Side and Greenwich Village that he plans to re-launch the brand’s original spot on Second Avenue near East Sixth Street, where it had been for 18 years before Covid.
Bank is equally bullish: He plans to expand Carmine’s on West 44th Street into 5,000 square feet of extra space for which he just signed a lease.
Times Square Alliance President Tom Harris was thrilled about the Mermaid news. He said: “With the return of office workers, Broadway, and international travel, we are ready to welcome new restaurants. We are seeing consistently more and more foot traffic with peaks exceeding 250,000 people a day.”