News the Night Tube may not be returning before the end of the year at the earliest has been described as "catastrophic" for London's night-time economy.
Transport Commissioner Andy Byford told the Evening Standard that the Friday and Saturday night services on the Victoria, Jubilee, Central, Northern and Piccadilly lines will be the last to return to normal after the pandemic.
He told the paper: "We need the personnel to keep the day services going and frankly there isn't the demand for it, so there are no immediate plans to restore the Night Tube within a year, and certainly not before 2022. Securing the whole network is more important than keeping the Night Tube going."
The news will be a blow to hospitality workers who, while businesses were permitted to open, had come to rely on the service after late shifts, as well as businesses looking to recoup losses from the last year.
Outdoor hospitality reopened today, with an anticipated reopening of indoor dining and hotels from 17 May and nightclubs are hoped to reopen in June.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA), said: "The Night Tube is fundamental to the operation of the night-time economy in London, the suggestion of this service not returning until 2022, will be catastrophic to the sector and will without doubt leave many frustrated given the volume of customers expected over the next few months.
"This must be resolved by Transport for London and the Mayor as a matter of urgency, ensuring this service is brought back in time to ensure it captures the high volume periods before the end of this year."
Andy Lord, managing director of London Underground, said: "We are playing, and will continue to play, our full role in London's recovery from the pandemic. We are running as close to a full service as possible across all our services and the tube continues to serve central London with last trains leaving around 01:00 and starting again at 05:30. Our extensive night bus network continues to operate.
"We are continuing to review our options for when we might be able to reintroduce the full Friday and Saturday night tube in a safe and viable way and are exploring the feasibility of reintroducing some services on one or two lines more quickly.
"The full introduction of night tube services is not possible in the immediate future due to a number of factors including the continuing need to use Night Tube drivers during the day to run as much service as possible when demand is at its highest. We are also planning to restart a weekday service on the Waterloo & City line from June."