El Agave: Things a little slow

FAIRMONT – Nearly two months after a data breach for credit and debit cards was discovered and traced back to El Agave restaurant, the business is still recovering.

“It’s still a little slow, but we don’t know if that is because of new places coming to town,” said Noe Juarez, proprietor of El Agave restaurants in Fairmont and St. Peter. “But we are slower than previous years, especially in May.”

In late March, hundreds of credit and debit cards used at El Agave were compromised when the restuarant’s point-of-sale connection was hacked by an outside entity. Card information from customers who used their credit or debit cards at the restaurant since November was stolen.

At the time, El Agave was in the process of upgrading the system, but when it learned of the breach, it went to a dial-up line so there is no longer any Internet access to the point-of-sale system.

“The upgrade was finished last week, and it meets all the newest standards,” Juarez said. “New terminals, new computers … We had to do dial-up for the past two months, and while it was a little bit of a hassle; we wanted to do whatever it takes to be safe. Now we have a system that operates as intended. We took the steps we had to do to solve this and prevent it from happening again.”

The business saw a sharp decline in the days following the discovery of the data breach. But many loyal Fairmont customers have since returned. The first block of Downtown Plaza is again filled with cars during lunch and dinner hours. But Juarez notices the difference.

“I don’t like to worry,” he said. “It’s been OK, but you still wonder … What’s on our side is that we took the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again. People have been supportive on Facebook, when they call or come in. I don’t know if people are still thinking about it. We still get asked about it.”

While the cyber criminals who perpetrated the crime have yet to be caught, Juarez and El Agave are simply trying to move forward.

“We’re trying to go back to normal,” he said. “We’ll keep serving good food and working hard. It’s what we’ve done since we’ve been around. We’re grateful to all the customers who support us.”