Down the road a piece from the University of Maryland, only a couple of miles from the turkey farms of the Department of Agriculture's Research Center, and just off the road to Baltimore is a place called Maggie's. That's Margarita Maggie's, as in happy hour, dancing, nightlife and fun.

"It's kind of like Rumors -- in Beltsville," says Joe Prosperi, who likens the expansive yet not expensive Mexican-style nightclub to the popular dance club on 19th Street. Prosperi, a 29-year-old Brentwood furniture restorer has made a fair comparison when it comes to clientele, atmosphere, music, dancing and, on weekends, long waiting lines to get in. But unlike downtown, parking is suburban-style; that is, there's plenty of it and it's free.

Maggie's double-tiered hardwood dance floor holds 75 to 85 dancers "or one hundredclose friends," estimates deejay Bruce Mueller of the Baltimore-based Soundscapes company, which is responsible for spinning dance music each night beginning at 9. Mueller's duties include not only playing the stacks of wax -- mostly top-40, oldies and Motown hits -- but also operating two stereo video players, synchronizing the dance floor's baby spotlights and the non-adjustable ("it's either bright or bright") high-intensity red, yellow, blue and white neon lights, and operating the video camera that beams a picture back to two ten-foot-wide screens and three tableside television sets. Talking to women patrons is an option Mueller exercises at his own discretion.

There's ceramic tile on the floors and atop all three bars. One suspects that when the music and moment are right, even the bar tiles are danced on. Dieffenbachia and philodendron sway from the bars' knotty pine overhangs while Mexican artifacts hang from the stucco-like wlls. Framed black-and-white portraits of heroes of the Mexican- American War add to the "south of the border" look. While each of the items is appealing individually, together the look is a bit too "manufactured-Mexican" to be, say, quaint.

But Margarita Maggie's isn't attracting a quaint crowd anyway. Happy hour runs weekdays from 4:30 to 7:30, with a free fresh-cut- vegetable and Mexican buffet until 6 that draws heavily from the area's growing number of research and technology companies. The crowd tends to be older -- more 25- year-olds early in the week and during happy hour than on Friday and Saturday nights when the 21-to-25 set takes command.

"It's great for college kids," says Janis Duzak, 34, a secretary at the nearby Harry Diamond Labs. "But it's also great for happy hours. You can eat dinner for free!"

Margarita Maggie's is open late -- until 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Draft beer begins at $1.50 while the main bar offers 59 varieties of domestic and imported bottled beer. A sippin'n'dippin' menu ranging from nachos to burgers to fried ice cream, can be had until 1 a.m.

The nightclub is an outgrowth of the Mexican restaurant Plata Grande, to which it is attached, both physically and financially. Both establishments are the beginning of what the Carrollton Limited Partnership -- the Maryland developer that built New Carrollton, Kettering, Calverton, among other things -- hopes will become a small food and entertainment chain, with sites near Annapolis and in Columbia and Ocean City.

MARGARITA MAGGIE'S -- 4060 Powder Mill Road, Beltsville. From I-95 north, take Calverton exit. 572- 7744.