By Brian New

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – An estimated one out of every six restaurants have closed for good since the start of the pandemic.

Even more owners say they won’t make it another year without help.

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With the Payment Protection Program (PPP) now out of money, restaurants are turning to a new, more targeted federal relief program.

The $28 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund approved by Congress began accepting applications through the U.S. Small Business Administration on Monday.

In the first two days, more than 186,000 restaurants applied.

The high interest has some in the restaurant industry concerned the funds may run out quickly.

Minority, woman and veteran-owned restaurants will be given priority for the first 21 days of the program. Many these businesses missed out on the PPP that critics said catered to bigger business with established banking relationships.

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Nikky Phinyawatana, owner of the Asian Mint restaurants, said she plans to apply for the funds and encourages other small restaurants to do the same.

With greater spending flexibility than offered in the PPP, Phinyawatana said she plans to use the money to increase her labor force and to help offset operational expenses that’s come with the change in customer behavior.

Before the pandemic, the majority of her Dallas restaurants’ business was dine-in. Now the majority is take-out and delivery.

Phinyawatana said she believes this change in customer behavior is here to stay.

“A lot of our restaurants, pre-pandemic, were not built for that kind of operation,” she explained. “So to put the money back into the operation, how you want to operate, will be a big help.”

The Dallas restaurant owner said she believes ensuring local restaurants financially survive the pandemic is critical for more than just economic reason.

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“A lot of people don’t realize it until you lose it but restaurants are where you get your soul fed. We need this. I think the community needs it,” she said.