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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

LUKoil Pulls the Plug on Unhappy U.S. Franchisee

NEW YORK -- Around 8:30 last Monday morning, Inderjeet Parmar ran out of gas. He sold the last 1,000 gallons at his Getty station in Queens and soon after, a city marshal arrived with an eviction notice and asked him to stand on the sidewalk as technicians checked his tanks for signs of sabotage.

Since last fall, Parmar has been fighting LUKoil, Getty's Russian parent company, over his rent (too high, he claimed) and his share of profits (too low). Last week, the long struggle for this vocal gasoline franchisee finally ended. "These big companies, they are squeezing the poor guy every day," said Parmar, resplendent in his brand-new American flag shirt. "We are not terrorists. These people are terrorists."

Parmar's war was not without drama. There were public denunciations of LUKoil ("a Russian mob"), President Vladimir Putin and President George W. Bush. There was the matter of Parmar getting gas from another distributor and charging 15 percent less than his competitors, while refusing to pay the rent. Add to that a spate of media attention, most recently his appearance on a comedy television show.

It was only a matter of time before eviction day came around, since a Civil Court judge ruled earlier this month that Parmar had breached his lease. His family salvaged what they could from the station, which stank of peppers and vinegar from the recently stripped-bare Blimpie sandwich shop that he ran there. "What is America? Where are our rights? Where is our freedom?" asked Parmar's wife, Satinder. "In America, this is ridiculous."

From LUKoil's point of view, things are much more straightforward. A company spokesman, Joseph Shwirtz, said Parmar had agreed to the terms of the lease he is protesting, so his claims of an unfair rent increase were disingenuous.

"That's not the way we operate," Shwirtz said. "I think for his own purposes, Parmar would like to paint it that way."

Despite losing both of his gas stations (he ran a second LUKoil station in College Point, Queens), Parmar will take his protest to the national level. He plans to stand outside the Russian Consulate in New York, or perhaps the Russian Embassy in Washington, with custom-made signs protesting LUKoil. His 9-year-old son, Gurparshad, has expressed interest in joining him.

As for a livelihood, Parmar admits that other gas stations may be reluctant to hire him. And so, as he did when he arrived here from India in 1979, Parmar will most likely get behind the wheel of a taxi, where the scent of gasoline will occasionally remind him of his fighting days.