Globally inspired Mexican cocktail bar and restaurant to provide new local gathering spot for Westfield residents and visitors
WESTFIELD, NJ -- MARCH 22, 2022 -- The Mayor and Town Council unanimously voted on March 22 to authorize an award of contract to Maize Cocktails and Cocina, a globally inspired Mexican restaurant and cocktail bar, to operate at the North Avenue train station building, agreeing to lease the building to Chef Jesa Henneberry and experienced restaurateur Kamal Arora of Arora Hospitality Group.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to repurpose an underutilized iconic Town asset to drive downtown economic development and create a new revenue stream for our municipality that will be dedicated to beautifying our downtown,” said Mayor Shelley Brindle. “With its globally inspired cocktails and cuisine, casual and lively atmosphere, and thoughtful restoration of a historic building, Maize will play an important role in the revitalization of our downtown, driving additional foot traffic that will benefit all of our local establishments. We are thrilled to partner with Jesa and Kamal, who see the value of a long-term investment in Downtown Westfield.”
From family dinners, to watching a game, or to simply grabbing an after-work drink for commuters, Maize will serve as a local community gathering spot and feature as its centerpiece a square cocktail bar with vaulted ceilings and seating for 25, as well as indoor and outdoor dining and patio seating. With plans to provide live music and entertainment, Maize will anchor the transformation of the North Avenue train station parking lot into a permanent pedestrian plaza.
Maize will be able to apply for a New Jersey Concessionaire’s Liquor License since the property is owned by the Town, allowing them to offer a full bar on the premises with plans to feature a wide range of signature cocktails, tequila mezcals, and Mexican spirits.
Chef Jesa Henneberry has been working as a private chef and culinary consultant in New York City and the tri-state area for nearly ten years. She will soon appear as a cast member on the new Food Network series Big Restaurant Bet with Geoffrey Zakarian following a previous appearance on their series Chopped, winning her episode in 2016. In 2017, she was the creative culinary consulting chef behind New York City’s acclaimed plant-based Mexican restaurant Jajaja, recognized as one of the top vegetarian restaurants in America by Thrillist and Eater, with four locations in New York City. Jesa has also contributed her talents to several other startup and concept launches.
Kamal Arora is the founder of Arora Hospitality Group and has been part of the food and hospitality industry in the United States since 2007, when he invested in Moghul Express and Moghul Catering, now the biggest Indian catering company in the US. Kamal also launched Mithaas, an Indian sweet shop with five locations throughout New York and New Jersey, as well as fine dining establishment Urban Spice and Indian-inspired pizza restaurant Papa Pancho.
“The essence and concept of Maize is rooted in the backbone of the local history and neighborhood vibe, and offers a unique addition to downtown Westfield,” said Arora. “Maize will be solid and comfortable, yet progressive and authentically vibrant – a perfect fit with Westfield’s residents, businesses, and visitors. We look forward to opening our doors to this community.”
“From a culinary point of view, this will be Mexican food and cocktails as we know it -- with a twist -- as we look to take our guests on a journey around the globe with a blend of ethnic and cultural influences,” added Heneberry. “We have taken the specific dishes and beverages that are Mexican and will reinterpret them to compose our full menu with approachable fun selections that are both fresh and modern.”
Maize will make sustainability a priority with a focus on quality, organic, and locally sourced ingredients. Hennebery and Arora will also prioritize local employment, community engagement, and historic preservation in the creation of Maize. They have been working extensively with the Westfield Historic Preservation Commission and are making a significant investment to ensure that the building, which dates back to 1892, is restored in a manner consistent with its origins. The cooperation of NJ Transit was instrumental in allowing the use of an easement on their property to allow for the outdoor dining space along the back of the building.
The selection of Henneberry and Arora’s concept followed a public RFP issuance. The initial ten-year lease agreement, which begins on May 1, 2022, also includes two additional five-year renewal options. The Town will be paid $6,000 per month for the first three years of the lease, followed by a 3% annual increase, with the intention of redirecting the rent collected to support downtown beautification efforts. Additionally, the tenants will be investing an estimated $900,000 to renovate the building, providing substantial improvements that will derive benefits at this location well beyond the term of the lease.
Construction on the building is expected to begin in June, with an anticipated late 2022 opening.
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Current building exterior
Exterior architectural rendering
Interior architectural rendering