AUSTIN (KXAN) — A well-loved taqueria in east Austin is asking for financial help after the owners say the City of Austin shut them down temporarily over permitting issues. The city says the building the couple were operating out of was dangerous.

Sara Mardanbigi and Edgar Rico, a husband and wife, opened Nixta Taqueria in 2019, according to a post from the owners. The future of that restaurant is now in question and the owners have started a GoFundMe to finance steps forward.

“A cross-departmental team is currently working on a path forward to allow the restaurant to continue limited operations while critical electrical and safety issues are addressed,” a City of Austin spokesperson told KXAN.

The city said Austin Energy was alerted through a software it uses to “protect life and property” that there was an overload at the restaurant’s meter. Nixta owners said in a GoFundMe post that its electricity was cut on August 16 as a result.

When city crews showed up to check on the issue, they found “burned and melted wires, meaning the establishment was at a significantly high risk of fire or explosion,” the city spokesperson said.

At that point, the business said it believed it could fix the issue and return to normal operations within a few days. That isn’t what happened though.

“What is generally a 24-hour repair that would have cost around $10k has now ballooned to a 3-6 month project that will require upwards of $100,000, the displacement of our team, and a shell of what our restaurant operations are,” the business wrote. “An AC unit was installed in 2018 before we took over the lease, and that’s what triggered the discussion of re-permitting. This is classic bureaucracy and red-tape. We’re still reeling.”

A sign outside of Nixta informing customers the store is closed
A sign outside of Nixta informing customers the store is closed due to electrical issues (KXAN photo/Lauren Ryan)

When the restaurant applied for a permit to fix the issue, it was denied. The city said there were several reasons for that: “including that there is currently not enough amperage (amps) to operate all the electrical equipment in the building and the electrical meters don’t meet clearance requirements, which is also a critical safety issue.”

The city said it also found other permitting issues that “present life-threatening safety hazards” as it worked with the restaurant to clear the initial issue.

While the restaurant is shut down indefinitely, the business is asking for help. The owners started a GoFundMe they say will help with paying employees, for city permitting and possibly pivoting operations. More than $80,000 has been raised as of Friday afternoon.

“The safety of the customers, staff and owners is always our top priority in all situations related to electrical, code and permitting issues. We appreciate the tremendous support of Nixta Taqueria’s loyal customers and hope the money raised will help the owners navigate this situation,” the city spokesperson said.

The owners may look into opening a food truck in the short-term, they said. They asked customers to follow along on their Instagram page.

“Nixta will still be here, but it is going to look very different these next few months. Because one thing we’re not going to do is give up,” the owners wrote.