This place has never had much capital to work with, but that's no reason to stay away; d.c. space doesn't have any capital letters>, either. You're supposed to infer some self- deprecation -- and, yes, a definite kinship to the unconventional -- from the name.

The "space" is downtown, at Seventh and E streets NW, arguably the heart of D.C.'s "arts" community. Not a great many rollerskates are rented by Marymount College sophomores in this neighborhood, but don't let that keep you away, either.

In fact, stay away only if you are 45, mind your manners, like to listen to Vivaldi in the morning, and the show that night happens to be Brick House Burning, a hardcore new- music band whose faithful do not generally wear ties. Or sleeves.

Sometimes the most memorable thing about an evening here will be the T-shirt on a young guy near the door ("To All You VIRGINS -- Thanks for NOTHING"), and other times it'll be the way one of the older regulars at the adjacent ex-barbershop bar steals glances at his neighbor's dreadlocks. Frequently, though, it'll be the open, off- the-cuff feel of the place -- as well as the act you went there to see.

What act was that? Pick a night, any night. Could've been new wave, soft or hard, studied or spontaneous, usually not quite as loud or looney as the place's nearby cousin, the 9:30. Or maybe old wave -- also known as good-time rock'n'roll. Or psuedo- suburban dinner theater. Or bighearted, small-budgeted "experimental" theater, often a Source production. Or poetry readings. Rockabilly. Jazz.

The other night was fairly typical -- if there is such a thing here. The D.C. Jazz Workshop Orchestra, a 19-piece, ad hoc community band led by alto saxophonist Carl Grubbs, drew some 30 paying customers to the main room, which seats about a hundred, tops. The stage was full of brass, beards and bravado, and was definitely more crowded than the room -- but 30 people in a room this small, particularly when many seem to be friends of the band or friends of friends, make it look reasonably full. (This, together with the club's egalitarian booking bent, makes it an excellent place for bands to break in.)

Tomorrow is the last of six Saturday performances there by the Jazz Workshop Orchestra -- sponsored the past three years by co-owner Bill Warrell's non-profit arts-event clearinghouse, District Curators, and led in previous incarnations by such as Don Cherry and Anthony Braxton. Admission is a high $5, but the beer's cheap (draft Pabst, $1.10; domestic bottles, $1.65), and the D.C. Jazz Workshop Orchestra is the kind of casually jubilant act a newcomer to the "space" can live with.

Also eat with. The food is decent, cheap, semi-vegetarian (yes, we also have burgers); soups and desserts are specialties. (At the moment, there isn't any hot food, Warrell says, because the blower broke down on the main kitchen exhaust fan and the part hasn't come in yet. Last time something broke -- the glass on the barroom door that said "Wine Bar" -- the place stopped being a wine bar soon after; Warrell promises that hot food will be back shortly, however.)

Service varies. One thing the waitresses don't do is scour the room for soon-to-be- empty glasses -- actually a nice change of pace from most commercial drinking establishments this side of, say, Havana. The help looks more like the artistic community than the artistic community itself, which is big on coming by for both lunch and after- work visits.

However.

The tables do not match, and some of them have gum stuck up underneath. Try to contain your grief. D.C. SPACE -- 443 Seventh Street NW, open 11:30 to 2 Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 to 3 Friday, 6 to 3 a.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday, open for lunch only Mondays through Labor Day. 347-4960.