Brisbane Times is aware of business interest from firms interested in using the site, but wishing to remain strictly confidential.
There is more Brisbane European and Indigenous history in this stretch of the river – where Western Creek pokes out under Coronation Drive – than most people imagine.
Explorer John Oxley came through in 1823 looking for a good site for a city.
It is a gorgeous, riverside location receiving the warmth of the winter sun, but with enough shade in summer.
Since the 2011 floods, two new CityCat stops have been built a little more than 100 metres downstream at Milton and about a kilometre upstream at the Regatta Hotel.
Is there a Brisbane opportunity here that is going missing and should be explored?
Queensland’s Restaurant and Catering Industry Association and the state’s Tourism Industry Council both say yes.
“One hundred per cent absolutely,” QTIC chief executive Daniel Gschwhind said.
“Every asset that makes us a little bit different from another destination, we should explore.
“Sometimes the most unlikely starting point yields the most extraordinary outcomes.
“We see that all around the world and I think someone with the right creative spark can make something of it.”
He called on Brisbane City Council and the Queensland government to help someone transform the eyesore into an opportunity.
“We have seen a lot of investment going towards the river to make the most of it from a visitor point of view, not just as a transport mode, but as an experience,” he said.
The new Howard Smith Wharves and emerging Queens Wharf developments, upgrades to South Bank, the Riverlife adventure business at Kangaroo Point and the numerous river cruises were good examples.
“I think people are finally realising that this meandering body of water that bisects the city is not a problem but a huge opportunity,” Mr Gschwhind said.
Restaurant and Catering Industry Association public affairs manager Julian Harniman said Brisbane “could definitely do a lot more with the Brisbane River”.
“We would be very keen to talk to anybody – either Brisbane City Council or the state government – to get this opportunity open,” he said.
“The thing is that somebody would need to have the (money for) investment,” he said.
Mr Harniman said insurance could be a stumbling block but suggested ways to attract similar businesses could be considered.
“That way it wouldn’t just be on its own. It would become an area that people visit and they happen to eat at the restaurant,” he said.
“But then you do need investors to put up the money.”
The council agreed it was time for a re-think about the site but lord mayor Adrian Schrinner declined an interview, saying the pontoon was a Queensland government asset.
“Council shares community concerns about the derelict Drift restaurant, however, as the site was established through a lease between the State government and a private individual, council has had no authority to intervene,” his spokeswoman said.
“However council is eager to see further activation along the river’s edge and several years ago developed the River’s Edge Strategy to identify opportunities for more leisure activities along the river.”
Brisbane Times sought comment from Tourism Minister Kate Jones and Tourism and Events Queensland.
Drift was known as Oxley’s on the River for years before being renovated and relaunched as Drift.
It controversially beat Matt Moran’s Aria restaurant to be named best new restaurant at 2010’s Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence.
Tony Moore is a senior reporter at the Brisbane Times