The Coast News Group
The Arco and Thrifty gas station on Birmingham Drive closes June 4. Approximately 130 Arco-branded stations’ subleases held by independent dealers and franchisees will be allowed to expire over the next two years, following BP’s decision to divest its Carson, Calif. refinery. Photo by Tony Cagala

Cardiff gas station is part of string of Arco-brand closures

CARDIFF-BY-THE-SEA — The Arco gas station at 633 Birmingham Drive near Interstate-5 closed Monday following BP’s decision (made in February 2011) to divest its Carson, Calif. refinery and Southern California retail network. 

Approximately 130 Arco-branded stations’ subleases held by independent dealers and franchisees will be allowed to expire over the next two years.

Sean Naoum, the station’s franchisee at the Birmingham location for the past five years is upset about losing the business, but said he understands that there was no wrongdoing regarding the decision. He was notified at the end of 2011 that his sublease wouldn’t be continued, he said.

Despite the depleted shelves of the Sunshine Foods convenience store on the station’s site, customers like Oso Neal, a North County resident for more than 15 years was getting what would be his last cup of coffee. He and his friends used to frequent the store every single day, Neal said, mostly for the coffee, donuts and the service. “They knew you’re name when you walked in. They were just decent, hard working, cool folks.”

And now that it’s closing, he said it was “horrible.”

“I think it’s bad; there’s no sense of community anymore,” Neal added. “I think it’s wrong and disrespectful to the working guy.”

Naoum said that he and other franchisees had heard unofficially from BP sources that their leases weren’t going to be continued because the stations, as a group, weren’t profitable.

In Southern California, there are 920 Arco-branded stations, according to a BP released statement. The approximately 130 stations with leases expiring are held by Thrifty Oil Co. and will revert back to the Thrifty Oil brand. The remaining 790 Arco-branded stations will be unaffected by the changes.

In September 2011, Tesoro Corporation entered into a new lease agreement with Thrifty Oil Co. and has, since April 2012, started taking possession of several of the retail stations, according to a Tesoro Corporation First Quarter Report issued May 2, 2012.

Tesoro will lease the sites to independent contractors, according to a statement from the company.

Several of the franchisees have filed a lawsuit in federal court against BP and Thrifty Oil Co. claiming that BP did not give proper notification of its intent not to renew the leases.

The law firm representing the franchisees Schiller Exline, PLLC based in Texas did not respond to requests for comment.

Including Naoum, his gas station and convenience store employed a staff of four.

It’s anticipated Tesoro will reopen the sites under the brand USA Gasoline.