The decor is dark, the air is smoky and the sound is loud. The Bayou, Washington's second-largest nightclub, is a place to stomp your feet -- if you can find room.

"The majority of bands that play here are rock-and-roll bands," said the manager of the 20-year-old club, which sits under the Whitehurst Freeway, beside a railroad track in Georgetown's grittiest neighborhood. "On weekends dancing is the main attraction."

The Bayou occasionally books nationally prominent acts like the Nighthawks, who played there two nights this week, but usually the 450-seat club features local bands. Loud local bands.

There are four levels to the Bayou; the best seats are on the bottom level, the best sound on the top. Admission on weekends is $2.50 and drinks range from $1.85 for a bottle of Schlitz to $3.75 for a Zombie. With the opening this spring of the 1,000- seat Wax Museum Club, the Bayou lost biggest-in-town bragging rights. But Bayou owner Dave Williams says his club will keep on keeping on while others come and go.

"There's a demand for live entertainment and a place to meet and dance," he said. "These clubs make a lot of money without going to national attractions."

THE BAYOU -- At Wisconsin and K NW. The upcoming bands: Friday through Sunday, The Marbles; Monday, The Tommy Keene Group; Tuesday, The Method and Greg Karukas Group; Wednesday, Monarch. Call 333-2897.