Taco Medic director confirms closure, suppliers claim money owed

by Lauren Pattemore - Feb 14, 2024

Many in the local community are gutted at the loss of Mexican eatery Taco Medic in Queenstown, as one company director has spoken up after the business suddenly shut up shop.

Taco Medic director Trevor Gile has expressed his gratitude to regular patrons.

“We thank our loyal customers for their support and it is with the heaviest of hearts that we have to admit defeat in the face of a perfect storm," Mr Gile says in a statement provided to Crux.

"With food price inflation, wage inflation, and an economic slowdown that halved our sales there was just no way for us to keep delivering the product that we all love.”

The taco food business has had a presence in Queenstown for almost a decade, starting as a food truck before expanding to four restaurants - two in Queenstown and two in Auckland.

Many customers expressed their disappointment at hearing news of the end of trading, after a story was published yesterday by Crux.

Especially upset, diners after gluten-free and vegan offerings, for which Taco Medic was renowned.

The closure has been abrupt for customers, staff and at least one supplier.

A post on the local Facebook page for Jack's Point and Hanley's Farm claims residents ordered Taco Medic via food delivery last Friday (February 9), but the driver rocked up to find the place shut.

The anonymous social media poster says they were refunded by the delivery company, but expressed their confusion at the situation online.

One supplier of Taco Medic has contacted Crux following yesterday's story to share they have been left out of pocket, and have struggled for answers from the company regarding the "significant outstanding balance".

Arturo Luna of Remarkable Tortillas says his business is owed $20,000 by Taco Medic, who stopped paying its monthly bills on January 20 after ordering tortillas and other Mexican food stock through the online portal Fresho.

The December and January orders have stacked up; meanwhile, Auckland-based Mr Luna says he has attempted to contact the company multiple times about the payment.

He "discovered by coincidence" that stores were shutting last Thursday, February 8 when an Auckland Taco Medic staff member called him to see if they would take food stock back.

During the phone call, the Auckland staff member passed on the news they'd recieved that morning; the business was closing.

Taco Medic Ponsonby is also getting packed up (Supplied: Arturo Luna).

"Given the circumstances, I believe it's essential to raise awareness among other suppliers who may also be unaware of the closure and their outstanding dues," Mr Luna says.

"We are a family business; $20,000 is a lot for us; it is will be quite impactful."

Mr Luna says Taco Medic's assets were being sold from one Auckland Quay Street store on Thursday, and he turned up and took two frozen slushy machines, hoping to get "attention" from the directors and receive his payment.

He says he does not want to keep the slushy machines.

Crux is told that Auckland's Taco Medic staff arrived to work that day to hear from HR staff that the business was closing, effective from that day, but they had  been given paid notice.

At least two of the restaurant's staff have sponsorship visas tied to the business and are now looking for work.

Back in Queenstown, Citizen's Advice Bureau general manager Tracy Poole says generally when an employer closes, the employees with visas tied to the company have four to five weeks to find another employer to sponsor them.

Alternatively, they can shift to a visitor visa, but that will not allow them to work in New Zealand.

Ms Poole says right now is a harder time to get sponsorship in Queenstown, "because it is coming into the quiet season" and employers have difficulty providing sponsored employees the required 30 hours.

Auckland supplier Mr Luna tells Crux he only received confirmation from company directors yesterday (February 13) that Taco Medic was shutting after attempting to make contact through different avenues.

"Following the lack of response from Taco Medic, we decided to reach out to the ultimate holding company, Liger Holdings Limited.

"This seemed to have triggered an unexpected and aggressive response from Jeff Difazzio [another director]. Our conversation with him was highly confrontational, and he even went as far as yelling at me for contacting 'the academy'."

Mr Luna says he had never spoken to Mr Difazzio before this, or known of his involvement in the company.

He's still unsure if he'll get paid back the money owed to him.

Remarkable Tortillas became a supplier to the company a few years ago when it was run by former owners - before they started making their own tortillas.

Then, Mr Luna says he was contacted by the new manager and starting supplying the restaurants again in September 2023, and prior to January 20, they had always paid their bills on time.

Crux has asked directors Mr Gile and Mr Difazzio for comment on whether suppliers will be paid, and if the business will be entering insolvency, but did not receive a response before deadline. 

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