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Newark City Council votes to suspend Lukoil licenses to stand with Ukraine; local gas station owners say this hurts them, not Russia

Newark City Council votes to suspend Lukoil licenses 03:04

NEWARK, N.J. -- The hashtag "Boycott Lukoil" has been popping up online, and Wednesday, the Newark City Council voted to suspend Lukoil licenses in New Jersey's largest city.

Councilmembers say it's to stand with Ukraine and punish Russia, but as CBS2's Alice Gainer reports, local gas station owners say all it does is hurt them.

During Wednesday's Newark City Council meeting, it was a unanimous vote of yes.

"To strongly urge the suspension of all business licenses for all Lukoil gasoline stations and associated on-site businesses in the city of Newark in support and solidarity with the sovereign republic of the Ukraine," a councilmember said.

There are two Lukoil stations on McCarter Highway in Newark.

Roger Verma owns one of them and has 16 employees.

"I stand with Ukraine and I'm full in support of Russian sanctions, however I am baffled and confused how shutting down an American-based small business owner is sending a message to support," he said.

Verma is a franchisee and doesn't own the property, Lukoil North America does. It's a subsidiary of PJSC Lukoil in Moscow. Its founder and president is a Russian oligarch.

"It doesn't hurt Lukoil and it doesn't hurt Russia," said Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline, Convenience Store and Automotive Association.

Risalvato says this only hurts local business owners.

"All Lukoil does is purchase gasoline from the Phillips 66 Refinery, the Bayway Refinery in Linden, they mark it up a couple of pennies and they sell it to the franchise small business owner that is leasing that property from them and purchasing the product from them," he said.

Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. introduced the resolution.

"A lot of what we're seeing in response to the Russian invasion is individual countries, levels of government, you know, taking particular actions that collectively put pressure on the Russian federation to do what's right here," he said. "We hope that this action is temporary in the sense that, you know, the Russian federation ends this invasion of Ukraine."

Verma says even if only temporary, they won't survive this.

"We're just coming out of COVID where we were totally almost broke. This is gonna put us out of business," he said.

The resolution doesn't automatically go through. The business administrator makes the final decision. The councilman says if it is enacted, the city will assist employees with finding work.

The New Jersey Gasoline, Convenience Store and Automotive Association says if it goes through, they're looking at legal options. Lukoil North America and PJSC  Lukoil did not respond to requests for comment.

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