A 23-year-old Bowie man died early yesterday after being stabbed during a fight in a popular downtown Washington club, according to D.C. police.

The incident occurred shortly before midnight Thursday in the cavernous Ascot Restaurant, a restaurant by day and a club by night that has been open for 28 years at 17th and L streets near Connecticut Avenue NW.

The trouble followed violence at or near other D.C. nightclubs. Four men were shot and wounded last month outside Kili's Kafe, and a man was fatally stabbed in February outside Club U. Those clubs also are in Northwest Washington. The city revoked Club U's liquor license and suspended Kili's Kafe's.

D.C. police used emergency powers to shut down the Ascot for as long as four days while investigators review past reports of violence connected to the club. They took a similar step after the shootings near Kili's Kafe.

"This allows us to keep it closed for the weekend," said D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey. "We want to look a little deeper."

Police probably will issue a report to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board about the circumstances surrounding the stabbing. Police can ask the board to revoke or reevaluate the club's liquor license.

Between 100 and 150 patrons went to the Ascot on Thursday night to dance, drink, eat and listen to a rhythm-and-blues band, but most had left by the time of the stabbing.

"It happened as we were closing and asking everybody to leave," said Rahul Arora, president of the company that has owned the Ascot for the past 18 years. "Right now, we are in shock. There had never been a stabbing inside the place before."

City records show that there were three stabbings outside the Ascot between June 2003 and March 2004 involving patrons from the club.

In January of this year, the liquor board held a fact-finding hearing on the incident reports but decided not to take further action against the Ascot. The club had submitted a security plan, which included using a security wand to check patrons at the door for weapons.

Authorities identified the victim of Thursday's violence as Terry Smith of the 7900 block of Orchard Park Way. He was pronounced dead about 2 a.m. at Washington Hospital Center. Police said Smith was stabbed in the upper body.

Police said it appeared that Smith and another man had gotten into a fight at the club, which had fewer patrons than usual because of the impending snowy weather. Bouncers broke up the fight, police said, but did not eject Smith or the other man. The other man got into another fight with Smith and stabbed him, police said.

"They allowed a weapon onto the premises," Ramsey said. "They didn't throw either of them out. . . . It put other patrons at great risk."

Police said they were scrambling to track down and question witnesses and locate the assailant.

Early on March 13, 2004, two patrons from the Ascot were stabbed in the 1100 block of 16th Street NW in a fight that began in front of the establishment, according to city records. The two patrons were treated at Howard University Hospital for lacerations to the right hip and the back of the head, respectively.

About 12:30 a.m. Jan. 24, 2004, a patron was stabbed outside the Ascot after getting into an argument with three people inside the club. The victim was admitted to Prince George's Hospital Center and treated for wounds to the upper body. About the same time, another patron was punched in the mouth while attempting to get his coat.

And about 11:30 p.m. June 16, 2003, two patrons were thrown out of the Ascot by a security guard for getting into a fight, records show. Outside, one of the patrons stabbed the other with a penknife. The victim suffered wounds to the neck, back and stomach. She was treated at George Washington University Hospital and released.

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.