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In recent weeks debate on the regulation of Sydney's nightlife has escalated. Thus far it has largely been pitched as a battle between night-time businesses struggling with lockout and last-drinks laws, and a "nanny state" government. But there is much more at stake. Our newly published research focused on Surry Hills - one of Sydney's cultural and night-time hubs - found that underlying the nightlife debate are the critical issues of Sydney's worsening inequality, aspirations to govern Sydney as an enterprising "global" city, and who gets left behind. At stake is "the right to the city". Currently, it seems many are being denied this right.