Fast track: Start your engines. Galveston Go Karts and Fun Center, under construction for months at 9500 Seawall Blvd., launched a soft opening over the weekend.

The “open” flags at the site attracted a respectably large crowd, reports David Tenenbaum, one of three business partners behind the island venture. The center’s winter hours are 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Zip lines and a miniature golf course are planned for the next phase of the center, Tenenbaum said. Galveston Go Karts and Fun Center offers the only go-cart track on the island and some much-needed entertainment for young islanders, owners say.

The center is on the former Jungle Surf water park site, just inland of Seawall Boulevard near the Ocean Grove Condominiums. The complex is northeast of the Maravilla Resort Condominiums and south of Stewart Road.

Condo owners, particularly in Maravilla, were concerned about the noise go-carts would generate. Developers sought a compromise by promising to acquire the quietest gas-motored go-carts available by Salem, Ore.-based J&J Amusements. For information, call 409-740-6878.

Taco tattle: Downtown island nightclub owner Allen Flores confirms he plans to open an eatery downstairs in The Lounge complex, 2410 Strand. Flores is calling the concept Hot Taco Kitchen, which will serve up gourmet tacos, Mexican food, margaritas and other fare in a casual, fun atmosphere, he said.

Flores recently opened an entertainment venue upstairs at the complex called Salvation Nightclub, fashioned after New York City nightclubs with a touch of European flair. Flores is shooting for an April opening of Hot Taco Kitchen.

Retail report: And those rumors Flores bought the retail space at the Panama Lofts, a luxury residential development on the southeast corner of The Strand and 25th Street in the former Panama Hotel on the island, are true.

Flores last week confirmed he plans to open La Vida, a clothing boutique offering casual wear and motorcycle fashions with a California sensibility. Look for La Vida to also offer patrons beer and wine in a stylish shopping space. Stay tuned.

Bottoms up: Area consumers of adult beverages have reason to cheer. Nonno Tony’s World Kitchen at Pier 21 on the island has obtained a license to sell mixed beverages. Previously, the eatery only was selling beer and wine.

Island-based Galveston Restaurant Group is behind the Nonno Tony’s concept, which offers Italian, Asian fusion, Creole and traditional American fare all served from an open-style kitchen. The eatery includes Paulie’s Bar.

Two’s company: Galveston County has netted a second Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., a concept known for opening in hot tourist spots. Houston-based Landry’s Inc. over the weekend opened its Bubba Gump concept at Kemah Boardwalk in the space recently occupied by Joe’s Crab Shack. Landry’s opened a Bubba Gump last year at Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.

Landry’s, led by island native Tilman Fertitta, acquired the popular Bubba Gump chain in 2010.

Bubba Gump prepares shrimp 19 ways and its restaurants primarily are in iconic locations, including Universal CityWalk-Hollywood, Times Square in New York, Navy Pier in Chicago and New Orleans’ French Quarter, to name a few prime spots.

Besides shrimp, the menu offers fish entrees, steak, chicken dishes, crisp salads, children’s meals, creative desserts and award-winning ribs. The first Bubba Gump opened in 1996 on Cannery Row in Monterrey, Calif., in a licensing deal between Viacom Consumer Products and the owners of the Rusty Pelican Restaurants Inc., according to reports.

Viacom is owner of Paramount Pictures and distributor of the 1994 movie “Forrest Gump,” for which the restaurant chain was named.

In the movie, character Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue called shrimp the “fruit of the sea” and extolled the many ways it could be prepared: “You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it.”

Biz Buzz

Laura Elder is a reporter for The Daily News. Biz Buzz appears Tuesdays and Thursdays. Email your tips and suggestions to laura.elder@galvnews.com.

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